Black Legged Tick
- Common Name(s): Deer Tick, Black Legged Tick
- Order: Ixodida
- Family: Ixodidae
- Common Species: Ixodes scapularis
- Commonly Confused With: Other Ticks, Bed Bugs
How to Identify?
Black legged ticks are flattened from top to bottom. Adult and nymph ticks have 8 legs while the larval ticks have 6 legs. The females have a red or orange colored body behind the scutum (front section of a tick), and the males have a mostly black body behind the scutum with a brown or tan band on the outermost part of their body.
Where do they live?
The primary host of the adult ticks is white-tailed deer, hence the name deer tick, but they can and will get on other animals and humans. The nymphal and juvenile stages are found on smaller mammals or birds but can get on larger animals or humans. They are very common throughout most of the United States and can be found in any areas where their hosts reside. They wait on grass or tall foliage and attach to a host as it passes. After feeding, the tick drops back off of its host to lay eggs or molt. This usually happens in the forest as deer are roaming the area, but this is not exclusively where ticks will detach from their host!
What do they eat?
All life stages of the tick feed on blood, but males do not feed much if they feed at all. As mentioned above, ticks can feed on human or animal blood.
What do they do?
Ticks become a serious problem when they start to feed on humans. Black legged ticks can transmit a number of diseases to humans, but Lyme disease is the most notable of them all. Most people know that ticks can be responsible for transmitting diseases to humans, but what some people may not realize is that your pets can also get diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever or Lyme disease. While pets do not show symptoms and are not affected in the same ways as humans, if they become infected and a tick bites your pet and then transfers to you, you have just become infected with whatever disease your pet was carrying. If you know that you have been bitten by any tick send it off for testing immediately!
Researchers who go out to take tick population surveys and run testing have to capture ticks to complete their research. They have several different methods they can use for this purpose. Seven methods are listed on the University of Florida website link listed in the Additional Resources tab below.
- http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/medical/deer_tick.htm Check out the link to explore these methods and get even more information on ticks!
Author: G. Wyatt West– B.S.E.S University of Georgia 2017; Board Certified Entomologist
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