What are Deer Ticks?
Deer ticks, also known as black-legged ticks or Ixodes scapularis, are small arachnids that belong to the family Ixodidae. They are commonly found in wooded and grassy areas, particularly in regions with a high deer population, hence their name, “deer ticks.” Deer ticks are known to transmit various diseases, most notably Lyme disease.
- Color: Deer ticks or black-legged ticks have black legs and a dark brown body that turns grey when engorged.
- Legs: They have 8 legs
- Shape: Oval
- Size: Adult deer ticks usually only reach 3mm in length
- Antennae: No
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What Do Deer Ticks Look Like?
Deer ticks, also called black-legged ticks, are small arachnids with a typical adult size of around 3 millimeters. They have a dark brown or black coloration and possess eight legs, a dark head, and a dorsal shield behind the head. These features will allow you to identify these ticks throughout various stages of their life cycle.
Deer Tick Life Cycle Habits
The life cycle of black-legged ticks (or deer ticks) spans 2 to 3 years and consists of four distinct stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. Once the egg hatches, both the larva and nymph stages require a blood meal to progress to the subsequent stage of their development. Similarly, the female black-legged tick needs a blood meal in order to produce eggs.
All life stages of deer ticks are active October-May, as long as the daytime temperature remains above freezing. Preferring larger hosts, such as deer, adult black legged ticks can be found questing about knee-high on the tips of branches of low-growing shrubs. Adult females readily latch onto humans and pets.
Once females fully engorge on their blood meal, they drop off the host into the leaf litter, where they can over-winter. Engorged females lay a single egg mass (up to 1500-2000 eggs) in mid to late May and then die. Larvae emerge from eggs later in the summer.
Unfed female black-legged ticks are easily distinguished from other ticks by the orange-red body surrounding the black scutum. Males do not engorge and, although infected like the female, they are not involved in transmitting infections. Males are frequently found coupled with females, mating even off-host.
Deer Tick Prevention
To prevent a deer tick infestation near your home, you may want to contact the professionals at PMi. You may receive recommendations on landscaping practices, tick-proofing yards, wearing protective clothing, using tick repellents, conducting regular tick checks, and other preventive measures. PMi has experienced technicians who can conduct home inspections to determine your specific needs, whether that be treatments or more, we know your next steps.
Deer ticks are significant carriers of Lyme disease, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. When an infected tick bites a human or other animal, it can transmit the bacteria, leading to the development of Lyme disease if left untreated. Deer ticks can also transmit diseases like anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and the Powassan virus.
During the feeding process, larval and nymphal ticks can acquire Lyme disease bacteria from infected wildlife hosts, especially rodents. This bacteria can be carried into the tick’s next stage. Subsequently, nymphs or adult females can transmit the bacteria during their next blood meal.
Notably, female ticks infected with Lyme disease bacteria do not transfer the infection to their offspring.
Though deer play a crucial role in providing blood meals for ticks and facilitating their movement to new areas, deer are not carriers of Lyme disease bacteria and do not transmit them to ticks.