What is a tick?
Ticks are members of the ‘Ixodidae’ family of insects. They are external parasites that feed on the blood of non-domestic wildlife such as mice, deer, fox, raccoons, and rabbits. Ticks pose serious health concerns as they are known to carry and transmit disease and illness to humans and domestic animals.
In many parts of the country, ticks can be found waiting for an unsuspecting host in wooded and overgrown areas, tall grass and shrubs. The two main types of ticks controlled by American Pest are the ‘Black Legged Tick’ (or Deer Tick) and ‘Brown Dog Tick’. The two species vary in their appearance as follows:
The ‘Black Legged Tick’ (Deer Tick) body is a flattened oval shape with no hard shell, whose sharply pointed mouthpart is visible when viewed from above. Larvae measure about 1/32" (0.7-0.8mm) long, with 6 legs. Nymphs measure about 1/16" (1.1-1.8mm) long, with 8 legs. Adult females are about 1/8" (2.7 mm) long; males are smaller by about 1/16"/ 2 mm. Sizes are larger after a blood meal.
The ‘Brown Dog Tick’ is approximately 1/8 in (3 mm) long, but when engorged with blood they are up to 1/2 in (12 mm) long. It has a flattened body with mouth parts visible from above and the male has tiny pits scattered on its back.
The adult female ‘Black Legged Tick’ (Deer Tick) body is orange-brown in color, but the abdomen is darker when engorged. Legs, mouthparts and scutum (dorsal shield just behind mouthparts) are dark reddish brown. Adult males are reddish brown overall.
The ‘Brown Dog Tick’ is generally a reddish brown, but gray-blue or olive color when full of blood.
The lifecycle of the ‘Black Legged Tick’ (Deer Tick) is usually completed in two years. Eggs laid in the spring hatch several weeks later into six-legged larvae, which can be found June through September. They feed for 3-9 days but only once, usually on small mammals such as mice, chipmunks, voles, etc., but the preferred larval host is the white-footed mouse. Larvae feeding before September molt promptly and overwinter as 8-legged nymphs; those feeding later will molt the following spring.
The engorged ‘Brown Dog Tick’ female drops off the host dog, but tends to crawl upwards, depositing 1,000-3,000 tiny dark brown eggs in wall or ceiling crevices and cracks, and then she dies. Eggs hatch in 19-60 days into tiny larvae with 6 legs.
These “seed ticks” crawl down the walls and attach to a dog, but can go for 8 months without food or water. After engorging 3-6 days they enlarge to 1/16 in (2 mm), becoming blue, then drop off to find a place to molt.
In 1-3 weeks they become reddish-brown nymphs with 8 legs. They attach again and engorge for 4-9 days, growing to 1/8 in (3 mm) and turning dark gray. The nymphs then drop off, hide and molt into adults in 12-19 days.
They seek a host dog as soon as possible, but can survive up to 18 months before attachment, after which they engorge 6-50 days and mate. They may complete this cycle in 2 months, but there are usually only 2 generations per year in the north, and 4 generations per year in the south.