- Color: orange-brown; legs are dark reddish-brown.
- Size: adults: 1/16- to 1/8-inch long; larvae: 1 /32 is this number correct?-inch long; nymphs: 1/16-inch long.
- Blacklegged ticks are hard with a flattened and tear-drop-shaped body; mouthparts are easily seen when viewed from above.
- The female’s shield-like area remains unchanged, but the rest of her body stretches and becomes darker as she engorges (i.e., fills with blood) while feeding.
- Unlike the adults and nymphs which have eight legs, larvae have six legs.
Habits of Black Legged Ticks:
- Deer/bear blacklegged ticks are found in the eastern half of the United Sates east of the Mississippi River; western/Pacific blacklegged ticks are found along the west coast and into Arizona.
- During the winter, adults feed on deer.
- These ticks are three host ticks, i.e., they require different and successively larger host animals in order to complete development. The larvae and adults commonly infest white-footed deer mice and deer, respectively, however, the nymphs have a much wider range of hosts, including humans.
- In the spring, engorged females drop off the host animal to lay 3,000 eggs within a protected area. Eggs hatch within 48 to 135 days, and from June through September, the larvae seek and feed upon small rodents, e.g., mice, voles, chipmunks, etc.
- After molting to the nymphal stage, the ticks seek larger animal hosts, e.g., racoons, opossums, squirrels, etc., to feed only once for three to nine days.
- Nymphs are found April through August of the following season. After 25 to 56 days, engorged nymphs molt to the adult stage which usually feeds upon deer.
- Developmental time (egg to egg): normally two years but in the absence of suitable hosts, can extend to four years.
- Adults live long enough to mate and for the female to lay eggs.
- Blacklegged ticks climb grass and shrubs , waiting for host animals.
Damage Caused by Black Legged Ticks:
- Nymphs are responsible for transmission of Lyme disease, the most significant tick-borne disease within the United States.
- Annually, over 10,000 people (most in the northeast) are infected with this disease.
- Ticks concentrated in transition areas between fields and lower grassy vegetation, along animal trails, and in host animal nests or dens, e.g., woodpiles, burrows in the ground, stumps, logs, old rat or bird nests, and crawlspaces.
- Ticks and evidence of rodent activity in perimeter areas.
- These ticks are rarely encountered and do not survive indoors.
How to Control and Kill Black Legged Ticks:
- Rodent and other small animal activity should be discouraged by removing debris and ground cover around the area.
- Garbage, pet foods, and other materials which attract larger animals to the area should be cleaned up and secured.
- Tick harborage and questing areas should be reduced by mowing the grass and by removing and cutting high grass and weeds along paths, the fringe of turf areas, and areas frequented by humans and their pets.
- Rodent populations should be eliminated by using traps, tracking powders, and/or baits.
Personal Protective Measures Against BlackLegged Ticks:
- Individuals who work and/or spend recreational time in tick-infested areas should wear light-colored long sleeve shirts and long pants tucked into their socks.
- Clothing and skin should be treated with repellents.
- Individuals should be checked for ticks after returning from tick-infested areas and the ticks removed before they attach to the skin.
- Attached ticks should be carefully removed so that the head is not broken off and left embedded in the skin.