Out of all the blood sucking parasites out in the world, the ones that hit the closest to home are the flea and tick. Not only are they one of the most common issues that plague our beloved animals, but they can prey relentlessly on human hosts as well.
So you may be asking, what is so different between a flea and a tick?
Well, on top of being hungry for hemoglobin they have only few other similarities. Both of them are external parasites that need to have a host’s blood to survive. They become more active during warm weather. Unfortunately, when they are deprived of blood, these parasites are able to live for several months after before finally succumbing to starvation and dying. Within that time period they become more aggressive and desperate, meaning any warm blooded animal is at risk of becoming its new host should it get near. On top of that, both of these parasites are capable of spreading a wide variety of diseases to their unfortunate host due to their method of feeding. Fleas were most famous for their assistance in spreading the bubonic plague, and ticks are responsible for Lyme disease.
Despite the obvious similarities between these two pesky predators, there are numerous differences. Ticks are separated into two categories; Ixodidae (hard bodied ticks), and Argasidae (soft bodied ticks). They are significantly larger than fleas, and when they are gorged with blood they can become over one centimeter or more. The tick’s mouth is a highly sophisticated feeding organ that is covered by palps. The rostrum, or anchoring organ, is covered with curved hooks and is how they get the blood from their hosts.
Fleas are much smaller than their other blood sucking fiend and are much more mobile. They are part of the Siphonaptera order and they are classified by what type of host they feed on. Fleas must feed on blood before they are able to produce any eggs. The eggs are laid in batches of twenty and it is in the egg stage that the flea spends half of its life. Where ticks are generally much fewer in number when they infest a host, fleas are often a lot more numerous. Their bites leave small red bumps that are irritated and cause the host to itch and scratch, making the risk for secondary infection much greater.
Despite the differences between the two, both of these parasites remain a prevalent problem in the United States. The treatment options vary depending on which parasite and how severe of an infestation. Both of these should be treated immediately and the host should be sure to watch for any symptoms of disease since these parasites are capable of transmitting them.