Warming temperatures signal the arrival of outdoor fun. However, this also means insects are ready to come out of hiding—including ticks. These are pests you don’t want to hang around. It’s important to know what they look like so you can keep them away from you and your family. Check out which ticks are commonly found in the United States and what they look like.
Ticks are members of the arachnid family. Like others in this family, they have eight legs as adults. However, when they are in the larval stage, they only have six legs. Female and male ticks require hosts to obtain blood meals. Each tick species has a preferred host but are willing to seek out other hosts if their preferred is unavailable. Ticks are grouped into two categories based on their physical characteristics—hard or soft. Hard ticks are known for the plate on their back and having visible mouthparts. Male and female hard ticks vary in size. Soft ticks don’t have a back plate and their mouthparts aren’t easily spotted.
American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis)
The American dog tick, also known as a wood tick, is considered a hard tick. Like its name implies, the American dog tick prefers dogs as its host. However, this won’t stop them from latching onto humans. Though these ticks need blood to survive, they can actually go 2 to 3 years without feeding. One female tick can lay up to 5,000 eggs at one time.
What Do American Dog Ticks Look Like?
These ticks have a flat, oval body that is brown with gray markings. Female ticks are slightly larger than males and grow to about 3/16". Males can grow up to about 5/32". After the female feeds, its body can expand to about 1/2".
Where Do American Dog Ticks Live?
American dog ticks can be found throughout North America. In fact, it is also one of the most frequently encountered tick species in the United States. They like areas with plenty of grass and vegetation that is easily accessible to animals.
Blacklegged Tick (Ixodes scapularis)
The blacklegged tick also goes by the name deer tick. The white-tailed deer is this tick’s preferred host. Blacklegged ticks are known to lay up to 3,000 eggs.
What Do Blacklegged Ticks Look Like?
The blacklegged tick is a hard tick with a flat, oval body with dark legs. Females typically have a reddish tint to their brown bodies. They are known to grow darker after feeding. Males are typically brown but can have a slight red hue. Their coloring causes them to be mistaken for the brown dog tick. Female blacklegged ticks range between 1/8" and 3/16", and males are smaller than females.
Where Do Blacklegged Ticks Live?
These ticks are usually found in the eastern part of the United States. You can find them in wooded areas or spots with thick grass. They live on the grass and latch onto animals or humans as they pass.
Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)
This hard tick gets its name from its preferred host—dogs. Unlike other ticks, they can live completely indoors. These ticks don’t usually target humans, but they will bite people if another host isn’t present. After feeding, they lay between 1,000-3,000 eggs in a variety of places.
What Do Brown Dog Ticks Look Like?
The brown dog tick is reddish-brown but doesn’t contain any unique markings. Like other ticks, it has a flat, oval body. Females are usually 1/8" long, and males are slightly smaller. After feeding, females grow up to 1/2". Feeding can cause males and females to turn a bluish-gray color.
Where Do Brown Dog Ticks Live?
Brown dogs ticks thrive in dry, warm conditions and are often found in the eastern and southern parts of the United States as well as the west coast. Since these ticks prefer dogs as their host, they easily slip inside homes. They’re actually the tick species most often seen in houses. These ticks bury deep in the fur of animal hosts. They hide between toes and embed themselves into dog ears.
Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum)
The lone star tick is considered a hard tick. These ticks choose different hosts during each life stage. During the larva stage, they choose to feed on small animals. Nymphs will switch between small and larger animals, and adults primarily feed on larger animals. At all three stages ticks will feed on humans.
What Do Lone Star Ticks Look Like?
This tick is known for the distinct marking found on females. They have a white dot on the center of their back. Male ticks have less noticeable white lines on their back. Both males and females have a reddish-brown, flat, oval body. People often mistake them for the blacklegged tick because of their coloring. When lone star ticks feed, their body has a gray tint to it. Females typically grow up to 1/8" and expand to 7/16" when fed. Like other tick species, males are smaller.
Where Do Lone Star Ticks Live?
These ticks prefer areas with plenty of vegetation and shade. They hang out on low-growing vegetation and wait for a host to walk by them. They are often found in the eastern and southeastern parts of the United States.
Rocky Mountain Wood Tick (Dermacentor andersoni)
The Rocky Mountain wood tick is also known as a wood tick. It gets its name from the area it is commonly found. Like the lone star tick, the Rocky Mountain wood tick has different hosts during each life stage. During the larva and nymph stage, the ticks feed on smaller animals. Once they reach adulthood, they feed on humans and larger animals.
What Do Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks Look Like?
It is a hard tick with a reddish-brown, flat, oval body. Similar to the American dog tick, the female has gray markings that become more distinct when feeding. The males have grayish-white spots. Males are also smaller than females who can grow between 1/8" and 5/8".
Where Do Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks Live?
These ticks are commonly found in the Rocky Mountain states. They prefer wooded areas and open grasslands. You’re likely to spot them on low-growing vegetation and near trails.
Tips to Avoid Ticks
You don’t want ticks to limit your time outside. That’s why it’s important to take preventative measures. Check out a few ticks to prevent a run-in with these pests.
- To protect you and your furry friends, keep your yard trimmed so ticks don’t have as many places to hide.
- Treating your yard with a tick repellent and killer like our plant-based Mosquito & Tick Killer will help to keep your yard free of these pests.
- When spending time in areas prone to ticks, wear pants and long-sleeved shirts to help keep them from attaching.
- Use a tick repellent like our Natural Insect Repellent. When used as directed, it can be used on you and your dogs.
- After having fun outside, check yourself and your pets for ticks.
Ticks like to crash our summer parties which is why it’s important to keep your eye out for them. Knowing what they look like will help you be prepared. Make sure you take precautions when spending time outside. If you’re looking for a more environmentally and family friendly treatment option, check out our Maggie’s Farm Simply Effective™ Pest Control products.