The black-legged (deer) tick is a notorious biting arachnid named for its dark legs.

Blacklegged ticks are one of the most well-known pests related to Lyme disease–an illness that can be debilitating if not diagnosed in the early stages.

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Ticks are usually reddish-brown to black with a flattened body in tear drop-like form. They are one of the most well-known pests related to Lyme disease–an illness that can be debilitating if not diagnosed in the early stages.

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Ticks are usually reddish-brown to black with a flattened tear drop-like body. These eight-legged pests are only about 3 mm (1/8 inch) long but can increase in size up to 13 mm (1/2 inch) after feeding.

Both male and female black-legged ticks have flat, non-hard shelled oval bodies. Female deer ticks are orangish-brown in color except for their legs, mouthparts, and scutum (shield). When not engorged, their abdomen is dark reddish-brown but becomes darker after feeding. Male deer ticks are reddish-brown overall.

Blacklegged ticks cannot jump or fly and are slow-moving. They seek hosts by climbing on vegetation such as grasses or shrubs and waiting for a host to rub against them. Tick bites are often painless.

Blacklegged ticks are found where woods and fields meet lawns, around tall brush/grass, near stone walls and woodpiles where mice and other small mammals live, under plants or leaves, and on pets. Blacklegged ticks prefer to hide in grass and shrubs while waiting for a passing host.

The other habitat most likely to harbor black-legged ticks is the den, nest, or nesting area of skunks, raccoons, opossums, but especially the white-footed mouse.

During the winter, adult ticks feed primarily on the blood of white-tailed deer. In spring, a female tick will drop off its host and deposit about 3,000 eggs. The hatched 6-legged larvae can be found June through September. They feed on small mammals such as mice, chipmunks but prefer the white-footed mouse. Eight-legged nymphs feed during summer on mice, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, dogs, humans, and birds.

Depending on the species and environmental conditions, the entire life cycle may take anywhere from a few months to 4 years!

The adults of the Blacklegged tick will generally feed on the white-tailed deer during the winter months and mate during this time. The male will die shortly after mating and the female will remain on the host until the spring when it will then drop off and deposit up to 3000 eggs. After 48-135 days, the eggs will hatch, into six-legged larvae. After they find a host and feed, they will then molt into eight-legged nymphs and after another round of feeding, will then drop off the host and in approximately 25-56 days, will molt into an adult tick. Blacklegged ticks will not survive or complete their life cycle indoors.

The Brown dog tick is one of the few tick species that can survive and complete their entire life cycle both indoors and outdoors. After feeding, an engorged female will leave the host dog and search for the perfect location where she can lay 1,000 to 3,000 eggs. This tick will not lay eggs on humans or animals. The Brown dog tick may lay eggs on the ground in protected areas indoors. They will search for cracks and crevices around window and door surrounds, wall hangings, ceilings, and curtains. Females die soon after eggs are laid. After 19 to 60 days, the eggs will hatch, and six-legged larvae will then move to a host to feed. After they latch and feed, they will drop off the host and look for a shelter and molt several times. They will molt into eight-legged nymphs, which feed on a host and then drop off and molt into adult ticks. The Brown dog tick's entire life cycle can take just two months to complete, but will frequently take longer if there are few hosts present. There are usually two to four generations per year. In warmer temperate regions, the life cycle can occur year-round both inside and outside.

  1. Ticks can hibernate beneath leaf litter during the winter.
  2. A favorite feeding area for black-legged ticks on humans is the back of the neck, at the base of the skull.
  3. Blacklegged ticks will usually crawl about 4 hours or so before they attach. A tick has to be attached for 6-8 hours before a successful transmission can take place.

Are ticks hazardous to humans?

Yes. Blacklegged ticks are one of the most well-known pests related to Lyme disease–an illness that can be debilitating if not diagnosed in the early stages.

What are the signs of a black-legged tick infestation?

The most common sign of a black-legged tick problem is spotting one in your yard, on your body, or your pet.

When are ticks most common?

Ticks are most common during the spring/summer months as that is when people begin to spend more time outdoors.

How to avoid black-legged tick bites?

  1. While walking through forests and wooded areas, wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt of light colour to protect against bites and make ticks easier to see and remove before they can attach and feed.
  2. Wear closed footwear and tuck your pants into your socks.
  3. Use a tick repellent with DEET, following the directions.
  4. Put a tick and flea collar on your pet and check them for ticks often.

What to do if you find an attached tick?

Remove ticks from your skin immediately. Transmission of Lyme disease generally requires the tick to be attached for more than 24 hours.

Using fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool, grasp the tick close to your skin and pull it out gently. Don’t squeeze it; this can cause the Lyme disease agent to be introduced into your body.

Do not apply anything to the tick or try to burn it off.

After removal, place the tick in a screw-top bottle (pill vial) and take it to your doctor or local health unit. They can send it to a Public Health Laboratory for identification.

Thoroughly cleanse the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

Blacklegged (deer) Tick vs. American Dog Tick – What is the Difference?

Blacklegged ticks are much smaller than brown dog ticks, and their bites are much more dangerous. Blacklegged ticks are roughly 3mm 1/8 inch, about the size of a sesame seed, and have a flat, broad, oval-shaped body. American dog ticks on the other hand are much larger, with females growing up to 13mm 1/2 inch after feeding on a host. Deer ticks are famous for their black legs, which are in contrast with their light-colored bodies, while American dog ticks are reddish-brown with white and yellow markings.

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