red and black tick on piece of wood

How To Identify Different Types Of Ticks: A Beginner’s Guide

As the warm weather approaches and activities such as hiking become more inviting, many people will flock to wooded areas to enjoy the best Mother Nature has to offer. Research shows that being in nature is a great way to combat stress and improve overall levels of health – however, there are some risks associated with being in the great outdoors. One particular risk is getting bit by a tick.

A tick bite is no ordinary bug bite. This is because of the diseases ticks can carry. One such disease is Lyme disease, which, if left untreated, can lead to chronic health issues. Diseased ticks can also carry other types of infections such as anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Bourbon virus, Colorado tick fever, Heartland virus, Rocky mountain spotted fever, and Tularemia.

Ticks are small arachnids that thrive in wooded areas, grasslands, and forests. Their survival relies on their ability to find a host and feed on its blood. There are many different species of ticks that can be found in North America. Some exclusively feed on wild animals, but there are some that will latch onto a human to get their meal. Those types of ticks are the ones you’ll need to watch out for while you’re out enjoying the fresh air. But how can you spot a tick? And how do you know which ones pose the most danger? Read on for our beginner’s guide to how to identify different types of ticks. 

How do I know what kind of tick I have?

To be able to tell what kind of tick is attached to you, you will first have to know what they look like. This can be a difficult task if you’ve never seen one before or if you don’t know their distinct features. Ticks will also appear differently depending on where in their life cycle they are. The tick has four different life cycles: egg, larvae, nymph, and adult tick. It can also be hard to distinguish what type of tick is on you while they are biting you because they burrow into the skin. While it feeds, however, the body of the tick becomes larger, so that could help to determine the type of tick if you can see any distinctive markings.

brown tick on dirt
Image by Victor Grabarczyk on Unsplash: What’s the difference between a deer tick and a regular tick? It’s important to know which ticks pose a risk of transmitting disease.

What does a regular tick look like?

Although ticks are small – around 1/8 of an inch in length – they are still visible to the naked eye. The tick that is most commonly found latching onto humans, called a deer tick or blacklegged tick, is about the size of a sesame seed in adulthood. It has a reddish body with a solid black dorsal shield over its back. It has long, thin mouthparts. The Western blacklegged tick is very similar to the deer tick in appearance except its body shape is more oval. Although deer ticks can be found across North America, Western blacklegged ticks are only found on the west coast of the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Other common ticks include the Lone Star tick, the Brown Dog tick, and the American Dog tick. The Lone Star tick is medium in size, a little bigger than Western blacklegged and deer ticks, and has a rounded body. It is reddish-brown in color and has similar long, thin mouthparts. Something that makes this type of tick distinguishable is the white dot on its dorsal shield, although this dot can only be found on female ticks.

The Brown Dog tick has a small, elongated body that is also reddish-brown. Its mouthparts are different than the others, being hexagonal in shape. This type of tick does not have a decorated dorsal shield. The American Dog tick is the largest of all the commonly found ticks. It is brown with short and pointed mouthparts. Its dorsal shield has distinct white markings that make it easily identifiable.

No species of tick has wings, and they typically have eight legs unless they are in the larvae stage. Before feeding ticks will be flat-bodied; however, after they have fed, their body will become engorged.

black and red tick on leaf
Image by Erik Karits on Unsplash: Deer ticks pose the most risk when it comes to Lyme disease.

What do ticks that carry Lyme disease look like?

Since there are so many different kinds of ticks, it can be hard to determine which tick is which without knowing what they look like in advance. When it comes to ticks with Lyme disease, it is impossible to tell whether or not they carry the infection. However, the ticks that are most likely to carry the disease and transmit it to humans are blacklegged or deer ticks. The Western blacklegged tick also carries Lyme disease and can transfer it onto humans.

It can be difficult to identify ticks, especially if you aren’t sure what to look out for. By knowing the colors, sizes, and appearance of ticks, you can reduce your risk of contracting a serious chronic condition like Lyme disease.

Featured image by Erik Karits on Unsplash

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