Although bats are often unfairly blamed for spreading disease, they can be carriers of several dangerous parasites, including bat ticks. Bat ticks attach themselves to bats to feed on their blood. Even Though they are not known to spread disease to people, they can cause anemia and even death in bats.
In addition, bat ticks can infest homes and other buildings, where they may come into contact with people and pets. As a result, it is critical to be aware of the dangers of bat ticks and take necessary measures to prevent them from entering your home.
If you find a bat tick in your home, it is important to remove it carefully and dispose of it properly to avoid spreading it to other bats, animals, livestock, or humans.
While they are most commonly found in the northeastern United States, they have also been found in other parts of the country.
What Are Bat Ticks?
Bat ticks are soft ticks (a species of the Argasidae family) that mostly feed on the blood of bats. The scientific name is Carios kelleyi (formerly genus Ornithodoros). Bat ticks typically attach themselves to the fur or feathers of bats near the head or neck. Bat ticks can thrive in hot and cold environments.
Although uncommon, bat ticks can occasionally be found in homes and other structures like barns, old houses, and rustic cabins where bats have taken up residence. When bats are roosting, the ticks feed on the blood of their hosts while hiding in gaps and crevices in the roosting places.
When their primary hosts, bats, are not present, such as after bat control in a home, bats leave a roost, or if populations drop for some other reason, these ticks will start to wander off and feed on other animals, livestock, and humans.
What Do Bat Ticks Look Like?
Adult bat ticks are typically dark to dirty gray to light black. The adult bat tick is about 3/8-inch long and has eight legs with a coarse, warty-looking body. Their body is soft and leathery since they don’t have a hard shell like the hard ticks.
When viewed from above, the bat tick’s mouth parts are hidden under a hood. The mouth parts comprise one hypostome and two palps. The barbed hypostome penetrates human skin and cannot be easily removed. Sometimes, the hypostome can remain attached to the host even after removing the tick.
Life Cycle Of A Bat Tick
- After hatching from the egg, the six-legged bat tick larvae will start looking for blood meals and go through molting.
- After the first molt, it will enter the nymphal stage, where it will undergo numerous molting.
- During the development stage, the bat tick molts repeatedly and grows larger after each molt. The development phases typically last much longer than that of a hard tick.
- During its lifetime, an adult female bat tick feeds on blood meals multiple times and lays about 20 to 50 eggs in small batches. Bat ticks can live between 3 and 16 years. They can also live for many years without a host.
How Do You Identify A Bat Tick Bite?
Bat ticks are tiny creatures that can sometimes be difficult to spot with the naked eye. Although bat ticks are not naturally aggressive towards humans, they will bite if they come into contact with skin. Although it is unknown whether they can spread diseases to people, there are a few ways to tell if a bat tick has bitten you.
- A bat tick bite usually appears as a small red dot surrounded by a raised, red rash.
- The bite site may also be itchy or painful.
- If you look closely, you may see the small grayish body of the tick embedded in your skin.
You must see a medical professional immediately if you suspect a bat tick has bitten you. Though these ticks can carry many dangerous diseases, there is no solid evidence to back this, and prompt treatment is crucial for preventing serious health problems.
Do Bat Ticks Transmit Diseases?
Since bat ticks are intermittent feeders and take small amounts of blood meal every few days, it is still unrevealed whether they can transmit diseases. Since they only feed for a short time, their bite typically wouldn’t cause any reaction in humans.
There are very limited reports on bat tick-borne diseases. However, the ticks feed on blood, and there is a chance of pathogen transmission during feeding.
According to research, three genera of bacteria – Borrelia, Rickettsia, and Bartonella – have been found in Carios kelleyi nymphs and adults collected from residential and community buildings. It is still unknown whether the bat tick germs could cause or transmit any disease to humans.
Since the bat ticks are specific host creatures and exclusively feed only on bats, the chances of biting humans and other animals are rare.
Are Bat Ticks Dangerous To Humans?
While bat ticks are not known to transmit diseases to humans, they can occasionally bite humans who come into contact with them. In exceptional cases, this can result in an infection that requires medical attention.
Additionally, bat ticks are sometimes known to carry other parasites, such as mites and fleas, which can cause skin irritation and discomfort. Therefore, it is advised to stay away from the bat ticks whenever possible. If you do come into contact with one of these ticks, it is important to remove them promptly and carefully to reduce the risk of infection.
How Do Bat Ticks Spread?
While bat ticks are found worldwide, they are most common in North America, where they often infest cave-dwelling bats. The number of bat ticks discovered on people and domestic animals in the US has increased dramatically.
It is thought to be due to various factors, including changing climates and increased travel to areas where bat ticks are common. Despite the fact that the precise mechanism is still not fully understood, it is clear that bat ticks are a serious public health concern.
How Can You Protect Yourself From Bat Ticks?
The best way to protect yourself from bat ticks is to avoid contact with them.
Avoid spending time in areas where bats are known to roost.
If you must go into a place where they are present, wear long sleeves and pants and use insect repellent.
After spending time in a potential infestation area, you should also check your body for bat ticks.
If you find a bat tick on your body, remove it immediately and wash the area with soap and water. Always have a tick checklist before your outdoor adventure that will help you to take necessary precautions while traveling outdoors!
Methods To Control The Population Of Bat Ticks
Unfortunately, there are no effective methods for controlling the population of bat ticks because they spend much of their time in roosts (areas where bats live), which are often difficult to access.
According to the CDC, bat ticks are most commonly found on bats’ ears, wings, and backs. They can also be found in trees, which attach to leaves and branches. In addition, bat ticks are often active at night, making them difficult to spot. However, one can do a few things to reduce their numbers.
- Remove potential roosting sites, such as dead trees and abandoned buildings.
- Treat roosts with insecticides.
- Educate people about the dangers of bat ticks and how to prevent them from entering their homes.
Currently, researchers are working on several potential solutions. One possibility is to use a type of bacteria that naturally occurs in bat guano. This bacterium kills bat ticks, but it does not harm bats. Another possibility is to release a predatory mite species that feeds on bat ticks.
However, more research is needed before either of these methods can be implemented on a large scale. Meanwhile, scientists are working hard to find other ways to control the population of bat ticks and protect these endangered animals.
Bat ticks may create health and environmental impacts considering their habitat and their life cycle. If you reside in an area where bats are present, check your pets for ticks after they have been outside. Consult with a veterinarian if you find any.
You can also help protect bats by not using pesticides or other chemicals that could harm them and by building homes for them that meet their needs. Bat ticks can carry diseases that are harmful to both humans and animals, so it is best to avoid getting bitten by one.