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 their host. However, this won’t stop them from latching onto humans. These ticks have a flat, oval body that is brown with gray markings. Female ticks are slightly larger than males and grow to about 5 mm. Males can grow up to 3.6 mm. After the female feeds, its body can expand to 1.5 cm. 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. Though they 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.
Blacklegged Tick (Ixodes scapularis)
The blacklegged tick also goes by the name deer tick. The white-tailed deer is their preferred host. 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 3 and 5 mm in size, and males are smaller than females. These ticks are usually found in the eastern part of the United States. You can find them in areas that have thick grass or are wooded. They live on the grass and latch onto animals or humans as they pass. Blacklegged ticks are known to lay up to 3,000 eggs.
Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)
This reddish-brown hard tick gets its name from its preferred host—dogs. The brown dog tick 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″ and both males and females can turn a bluish-gray color. Since these ticks prefer dogs as their host, they easily slip inside homes. They are actually the tick species most often seen in houses. These ticks bury deep in the fur of animal hosts. They will hide between toes and embed themselves into dog ears. Unlike other ticks, they can live completely indoors and can lay their eggs—1,000-3,000 after feeding—in a variety of places. They 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.
Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum)
The lone star tick is considered a hard tick. It’s known for the distinct marking found on female ticks. Females 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. 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. These ticks prefer areas with plenty of vegetation and shade. 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. These ticks live in the wooded areas and open grasslands of the Rocky Mountain states. 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″. 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 will feed on larger animals and humans.
Tips to Avoid Ticks
You don’t want ticks to limit your time outside. That’s why it’s important to take preventative measures. To protect you and your furry family 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 Maggie’s Farm Simply Effective Mosquito & Tick Killer will help to keep your yard bug free. When you spend time in areas prone to ticks, wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts can help keep them from attaching. You can also use a tick repellent like Maggie’s Farm Simply Effective Natural Insect Repellent. When used as directed, it can be used on you and your dogs. After having fun outside, make sure to 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.