Ticks

General Information

Greater than 500 species of ticks exist worldwide. Ticks are divided into two groups according to body type hard and soft ticks. Hard ticks belong to the family Ixodidae, while soft ticks are part of the family Argasidae.

Appearance / Identification

Like their spider relatives, adult ticks have four pairs of legs extending from the sides of their bodies. Ticks vary in size from six-legged larvae measuring less than a millimeter in length to eight-legged adults with bodies ranging up to 1/4-inch long, depending on species and gender. Hard ticks, such as the American dog tick, feature a rigid shield directly behind the mouth and look like flattened seeds. Devoid of such a shield, soft ticks instead resemble large raisins. The color of ticks ranges from brown and reddish-brown to black. Adult female ticks belonging to certain species boast solitary silver or white spots on their backs.

  • Brown Dog Tick
  • Deer Tick
  • Wood Tick

Habits

Parasitic by nature, ticks primarily live in wooded areas or thick vegetation where they can easily wait and attach onto a passing host. Ticks frequently lurk within grasses or shrubs adjacent to paths heavily traveled by humans and other animals. Ticks detect hosts by vibrational cues, odors, exhaled carbon dioxide, and even cast shadow patterns. Certain species of ticks, like the deer tick, are prone to drying out and consequently prefer to inhabit moist areas with high humidity. Other tick varieties, such as brown dog ticks, can survive indoors and often hide in cracks or under furniture in households with pets and other suitable hosts. Contrary to popular belief, ticks cannot fly or jump. The parasites move solely by crawling, often preferring to travel up the body of a host before feeding.