Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis)

Deer Tick

Deer Tick (adult)

The deer tick, also known as the blacklegged tick, is responsible for transmitting the causative agents of Lyme disease, babesiosis, bartonellosis, anaplasmosis, and B. miyamotoi.

Deer ticks can be found along the eastern United States from Texas to Maine. They are also common in the upper Midwest, around the Great Lakes. Typical Deer tick habitat includes anywhere that their primary hosts, deer and mice, are high in numbers. Wooded areas, rocky walls, tall grass, and thick brush are common tick habitats. Deer ticks are easily identified by their red coloring. Other key features in identifying deer ticks include the solid, black dorsal shield, lack of festoons along the abdomen, and the long, thin mouthparts.

Ticks have a complicated life cycle which usually last about 2 years. Deer ticks lay eggs in early spring, which hatch in late spring/early summer. Larval ticks are predominant in summer months, during which time they take a blood meal, usually from a small mammal or bird. Larval ticks will over winter, engorge, and molt into nymphs in spring. Nymphs are the common life stage during spring and will take another blood meal, usually from another small to medium sized mammal or bird. Nymphs will molt into adults by fall, at which time adults will feed on large mammals, like bear and deer. Engorged adult ticks will overwinter, lay eggs in the spring, and die.

Humans could come into contact with any life stage of tick, although larval encounters would be unusual and difficult to notice because of their small size. Nymphs and adults will regularly feed on humans, and it is thought that nymphs, because they are smaller and more difficult to see, probably cause more cases of Lyme disease than adults. Late spring/early summer and fall are the primary seasons to be aware of ticks, although summer months could also pose hazards. Do not disregard winter—ticks are out when temperatures are above freezing and there is no snow cover. Naturally, this is vary by geographic region.

Map of Deer Tick distribution

Above: Geographical distribution of the Deer Tick

Sizes of the deer tick's various life stage

Sizes of the deer tick's various life stage

Identifying the Deer Tick:

The deer tick, also called the blacklegged tick, is one of the most common ticks found in the United States. Deer ticks are the smallest tick in North America, with adults growing to about the size of a sesame seed. They are distinctly reddish and have a solid black dorsal shield with long, thin mouth parts.

Location: Very common across the east coast, upper midwest and Great Lakes regions