Tick Identification

The Different Types of Ticks

The Blacklegged Tick (Ixodes scapularis)

The Blacklegged (Ixodes scapularis) Tick

The lifecycle of the blacklegged tick will generally last around two years. During these two years, blacklegged ticks will go through four life stages. Starting in the late spring, stage one begins with eggs, after they move onto the larva stage. Once they hatch, the ticks will require a blood meal at each life stage to survive. After their first year, the ticks will reach the nymph stage until the fourth and final stage, adulthood. These blacklegged ticks can feed on birds, reptiles, mammals, and even amphibians! At each stage of their lifecycle, the blacklegged ticks require a new host.

The Western Blacklegged (Ixodes pacificus) Tick

These blacklegged ticks will live a little longer compared to the blacklegged tick found in the Eastern to mid-west part of the United States. The life cycle of the western blacklegged tick will generally last around three years. Similar to the blacklegged tick, the Western Blacklegged tick will go through four life stages. In early to mid Spring, stage one begins with the eggs hatching. Hatched ticks must have a blood meal during every cycle. They will also need to find a new host for each stage too. The western blacklegged tick doesn’t mature as fast as its cousin from the East. Each life stage takes about a year to complete. After their first year, the Western Blacklegged ticks will reach the larva stage. Year two is when they will mature into the nymph stage. The third year is when they finally reach adulthood. These western blacklegged ticks can feed on birds, reptiles, mammals, and even amphibians!

The Western Blacklegged Tick (Ixodes pacificus)
Non-Ixodes Ticks (metastriate)

Non-Ixodes (metastriate) Ticks

Metastriate ticks are a concern due to their ability to transmit pathogens to humans. Amblyomma (A. americanum and A. maculatum), Dermacentor (D. andersoni, D. occidentalis, and D. variabilis), and Rhipicephalus sanguineus are a few of the more common ticks that will bite humans and transmit pathogens. Since 2016 we have been tracking an invasive metastriate tick called the Haemaphysalis longicornis, otherwise known as the Asian longhorned tick. It was identified in the United States and is reported to harbor or transmit different human and animal pathogens. The Asian longhorned tick, however, has not been identified as carrying any human pathogens in the United States. Blacklegged ticks and metastriate ticks have the same life cycles. They hatch from eggs, enter the larval phase, molt into nymphs, and eventually, the ticks will molt into adults. Metastriate ticks, however, have different feeding patterns throughout their life. Metastriate ticks introduce a one, two, or three-host feeding strategy. Each tick will have a range of animals they feed from and choose as a host. 

Knowing the preferences in the different types of hosts will help you detect other species of ticks while they are in the various stages of their life.