Whenever we get asked what ticks look like we always try to show our visitors a picture (it’s really the only way people who have never seen one before can get to see how horribly ugly they are)!
The Tick on the left has already fed (you can see this because it looks nice and plump, and yes you guessed it that nice fat bulge is full of blood)! There are actually many different types of ticks but to give you a pretty good idea we have listed the most common types that pet owners tend to come across including the Brown, Lone Star, Wood, Seed, American and of course the Black Legged (Deer Tick). We have provided pictures of each type too to give you a much better idea.
In the picture/photo on the right you can see a collection of Deer Tick eggs. This is the earliest stage in the Tick life cycle. The Deer Tick came to the public’s attention in the 1970’s when sicentists realised that this variety was one of the primary carriers of Lyme Disease – one of the most common Vector-borne diseases. Lyme disease has grown rapidly in the intervening years with over fourteen thousand cases reported annually in the United States.
The Deer Tick will go through four life stages which you can see in the pictures above and below. This variety will grow to the size of a sesame seed with the male slightly smaller than the female. The Deer Tick are also commonly referred to as the Black Legged Tick due to the colour of their legs. They will live for about two years and will start as eggs, before becoming Larvae, Nymphs and then finally in the last stage a fully grown Adult.
The Deer tick will feed on a host three times during their life cycle which consists of four stages. Feeding will start when the Larvae molts into a Nymph, they will feed again when they molt into an Adult and again when they need to lay eggs.
It is important to mention that during each feed they are capable of contracting the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease. However, they can only pass the disease onto another host during the final, second or third feed. The Deer Tick will normally need to be engorged in a host for at least twenty four to forty eight hours for the Lyme Disease virus to be transmitted or passed on.
The Deer Tick Larvae (as seen in the picture above) will normally hatch in about Spring time – specifically between August and September. The Larvae will normally not be any bigger than a Full Stop – of for our American Cousins a ‘Period’. The Larvae will then attach to a host – normally a small mammal so that it can take it’s first feed – the Larvae will then feed non-stop engorged in the host until it swells with blood from the chosen host.
It is at this stage that the Larvae will get infected with the bacterium that causes Lyme Disease – known as Spirochete. It is important to mention that that Tick eggs and Larvae are not born withan infected disease but they catch it as they feed form infected hosts and the disease will continue to be spread as the Tick continues to feed on separate hosts.
The Larvae will not seek another host at this point as it will continue feeding on the first host. The Larvae will then molt into the next stage when it becomes a Nymph and this is when it will choose another host and take another feed.
The Deer Tick Nymph (as seen in the picture on the left) will start it’s life as as an egg (larvae) before falling of its host and molting into a Nymph. They will not feed for the entire Winter and beginning of Spring and will molt into a Nymph until the Fall (Autumn) period. The Nymph will then need to start seeking a new host and will hide in vegetation until a new host becomes available. The Nymph will the attach itself to new host and will feed non-stop for four up to five days. During this period the Tick will treble in size and even more depending on how much it has gorged.
The Nymph can either now become infected by the bacterium (Spirochete) causing Lyme Disease or become infected if the host is carrying the disease. In some parts of the country it is thought that as many as twenty five percent of Ticks carry Lyme Disease. The Nymph actually prefers to choose smaller hosts such as small birds and mammals but if they come into contact with dogs, pets and even humans then they will feed on them instead.
The adult stage (as you can see in the picture above) is the final stage in the life cycle.
The Adult Deer Tick will normally live in undergrowth and wooded areas but they will also climb very high up blades of grass to reach a height where they can attach themselves to a new host.
Their most active period is October into November. If the Ticks are not able to find a host in the Winter they will then hide beneath leaves on the ground and will become inactive in temperatures that drop below 45 degrees fahrenheit. After the temperatures have risen again the Ticks will then start seeking another host and mate so that they can reproduce and produce offspring in the form of eggs. The female and male may mate on the host with the female then falling into leaves and laying their eggs.
The female will lay about three thousand eggs with the female dying soon after. The eggs will then hatch and the two year life cycle will start all over again.
What Do Ticks Look Like?
The American Dog Tick
The American Dog Tick (also known as the Wood Tick) – Dermacentor variabilis- This type of Tick can carry a host of nasty diseases including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tuleremia and Human Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis. This variety will go through the same life cycle including Egg, Larvae, Nymph and the Adult.
During the later stages i.e. Larvae, Nymph and then Adult the Tick musthave a blood meal before they develop into the next stage. This variety will feed on humans if they come into contact with them – however they are more likely to feed on Dogs, Raccoons, Squirrels and Chipmunks. This variety will not carry Lyme Disease.
What Do Ticks Look Like?
The Brown Dog Tick
The Brown Dog Tick or Rhipicephalussanguineus Latreille is unique among the different types mainly because unlike other varieties it can complete all three stages of it’s life cycle indoors. For this reason it can be found all over the World mainly due to the fact that it doesn’t have to cope with cold weather during Winter. They will feed on all animals but due to the fact that they are largely found indoors the Dog is the most common host.
The female Brown Tick will lay about five thousand eggs with the lifecycle consisting of Eggs, Larvae, Nymph and then Adult. The Larvae will hatch from the eggs about two weeks/fifteen days after they have been laid by the female. The Larvae will then seek a host and feed for up to a week before they molt into a Nymph. The Nymph will then feed for anything from five days up to ten days until they molt into an Adult.It is possible for the Brown Dog Tick to complete their entire life cycle in as little as two months from eggs to adults.
What Do Ticks Look Like?
The Lone Star
The Lone Star – also known by it’s scientific name of Amblyomma americanum. This type of tick is easily recognized due to the white ‘Star’ like mark that appears at the center of the Tick’s back. People who are bitten by this type of Tick will sometimes develop a red bumpy rash – sometimes called the ‘Bullseye Rash’.
Symptoms that may accompany the rash include lethargy, fatigue and muscle aches – often the first signs of Lyme Disease – which can also affect dogs and puppies. Other diseases that can occur as a result of a bite can include – Human Monocytic Ehrlichiosis, Rock Mountain Spotted Fever, Swollen Lymph Nodes and Tularemia. Another nasty illness called STARI is also gaining some attention – referred to as Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness.
This type are normally found in South Eastern and Southern (Central) States of America and will normally be found in wooded forests, and dense under growth.
This variety will also go through the normal life cycle i.e. Eggs,Larvae, Nymphs and then Adult. The Lone Star is one of the most aggressive Tick’s and will travel long distances to find a host – they can also feed on a host during each stage of the life cycle. Also in the last thirty years the Lone Star has increased in numbers.
We hope we have answered the initial question and provided lots of pictures so you can see each type is completely different.