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Blacklegged (Deer) Ticks

(ixodes scapularis)

The blacklegged (deer) tick is a world famous hitchhiking arachnid named for its dark appengages. Blacklegged ticks are oftentimes referred to as deer ticks as their favorite adult prey is the white-tailed deer. Blacklegged (deer) ticks are significant to human beings due to their ability to transmit a wide variety of illnesses, including: Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, human babesiosis, Powassan encephalitis, and more.


When the Blacklegged (deer) tick has not fed they are very small and hard to spot. The female blacklegged tick is roughly 1/8”, while the smaller male ticks are about 1/16”. Both the female and male ticks look very similar. The ticks have flat, oval bodies, and are not hard-shelled. While the male deer ticks are reddish brown overall, the female deer ticks change color depending on if they have fed or not. Typically, female deer ticks are orangish brown in color outside of their mouth, legs, and their “shell”. When the female ticks have not fed or are unengorged, their abdomen takes on a dark red-brown color. However upon feeding their abdomens become a much darker deeper color.


During the winter months the ticks usually feed on the blood of white-tailed deer, which is why they are sometimes referred to as deer ticks.   In the spring the female tick will drop off her host and lay about 3,000 eggs. Nymphs, or baby ticks feed on mice, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, dogs, birds and humans.


Blacklegged ticks tend to hide out in tall grass or shrubs and wait for a passing host.


In order to avoid exposure to the blacklegged deer tick, keep your property well trimmed. This is especially important around sheds, trees, shrubs, fence lines, and any other hard to reach places such as swing sets or patio furniture. Another important piece of preparation is to properly secure the waste bins located on your property. Securing your waste will prevent critters such as raccoons, opossums, and skunks from infiltrating your property for they are common carriers of ticks and lyme disease.

For prevention when you’re vacationing, utilize repellent with at least a 20% DEET content, as well as taking precautions to tuck your pants into your socks and boots to avoid exposing skin. Upon return from your adventures be sure to thoroughly check your clothing and your skin for any hitchhikers.

Finally, what do you do if you find a tick on yourself or one of your furry friends? Firmly grasp the tick with a pair of tweezers as close to the skin as possible. Pull slowly but firmly away from the skin until the tick pulls free. Do not touch the tick any further but save it in rubbing alcohol so it may be tested for any potentially harmful diseases.

As always, if you find any signs of a tick infestation on your property, do not hesitate and contact McDuffie Pest Control immediately.