Ticks are members of the order Acarina. They are the largest of this order, and therefore unlike some other species of this order they can be identified without the aid of a microscope. Ticks are flat, small blood-sucking insects. They resemble spiders in the sense that they have eight legs as adults but only have 6 leggs as larva.
Ticks can be either hard or soft. The hard ticks have an exposed head and mouth, and a shield that covers most of the upper body. The soft tick is sac-like with no hard shield. Instead, they have a leathery exoskeleton for protection.
When ticks feed, they engorge with blood. Female ticks can grow to be almost three times their normal size when engorged. Males don’t grow as large as females when they feed. Some adult ticks can exist for two years without feeding.
Ticks have no means of locomotion except crawling. Since they feed on hosts that are much larger than they are, ticks must climb up tall weeds or fences to wait for their food sources. Ticks locate their prey through vibrations or odors and can prepare to jump on the host when it passes by.
When you are out in the woods, be sure to check for ticks on yourself and your pets. Have a friend perform a “tick check” to ensure there are no ticks on the back of your head or clothing. Ticks are extremely small, so be sure to look deep in your animal’s fur and your hair.
If a tick bites you, seek medical attention as soon as possible. If you find a tick on your pet, remove it carefully and completely.