What Do Ticks Look Like

Have your kids ever asked, "What do ticks look like?" This innocent question can send chills down the spine. There are hundreds of tick species and some of them transmit serious diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

What Do Ticks Look Like In The Wild?
Although there are hundreds of tick species, only a few attach themselves to pets and humans. Understanding and identifying these insects is the first step to preventing infection. Here's what you need to know:

  • Don't call me a bug! One common misconception is that ticks are insects. They are actually arachnids like spiders and scorpions. The distinction is important, since ticks have four pairs of legs-unlike insects who have three pairs. Another way to spot a tick? Ticks don't have antennae.
  • Cradle to grave. Ticks start out as larvae (sometimes called seed ticks) that are about the size of a grain of pepper. These larvae, born in the spring, will feed and grown into nymphs (about the size of a pin head). The nymphs will over winter and grow into mature adults the following spring. Ticks can go for long periods without feeding, but their primary feeding times are in the spring and fall.
  • Dog Ticks. Dog Ticks (Dermacentor variabilis), also known as Wood Ticks, are the most common form of biting tick. Dog ticks are most active from late spring through early summer. Dog ticks are brown with light gray mottling and have a hard plate that covers their head and back. Mature Dog ticks are 3mm to 4mm in size.
  • Deer ticks. The Deer Tick (Ixodes scapolarius), also known as the Black-Legged Tick, is the primary carrier of Lyme disease. Larvae are typically about the size of a poppy seed, while nymphs (the most common biters) are about 1mm in length. The female Deer tick has red to orange markings near its tail.
  • Lone Star Tick. The Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum) is brown and has a distinctive silver spot in the center of its back. Mature Lone Star ticks are about 2mm to 3mm in length.
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