Tick Identification

BLACKLEGGED TICK Ixodes scapularis

WHERE FOUND Widely distributed across the eastern United States.

TRANSMITS Borrelia burgdorferi and B. mayonii (which cause Lyme disease), Anaplasma phagocytophilum (anaplasmosis), B. miyamotoi disease (a form of relapsing fever), Ehrlichia muris eauclairensis (ehrlichiosis), Babesia microti (babesiosis), and Powassan virus (Powassan virus disease).

COMMENTS The greatest risk of being bitten exists in the spring, summer, and fall in the Northeast, Upper Midwest and mid-Atlantic. However, adult ticks may be out searching for a host any time winter temperatures are above freezing. All life stages bite humans, but nymphs and adult females are most commonly found on people.

LONE STAR TICK Amblyomma americanum

WHERE FOUND Widely distributed in the eastern United States, but more common in the South.

TRANSMITS Ehrlichia chaffeensis and E. ewingii (which cause human ehrlichiosis), Francisella tularensis (tularemia), Heartland virus (Heartland virus disease), Bourbon virus (Bourbon virus disease), and Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI).

COMMENTS The greatest risk of being bitten exists in early spring through late fall. A very aggressive tick that bites humans. The adult female is distinguished by a white dot or “lone star” on her back. The nymph and adult females most frequently bite humans.

Allergic reactions associated with consumption of red (mammalian) meat have been reported among persons bitten by lone star ticks.

AMERICAN DOG TICK Dermacentor variabilis

WHERE FOUND Widely distributed east of the Rocky Mountains. Also occurs in limited areas on the Pacific Coast.

TRANSMITS Francisella tularensis (tularemia) and Rickettsia rickettsii (Rocky Mountain spotted fever).

COMMENTS The greatest risk of being bitten occurs during spring and summer. Adult females are most likely to bite humans.

BROWN DOG TICK Rhipicephalus sanguineus

WHERE FOUND Worldwide.

TRANSMITS Rickettsia rickettsii (Rocky Mountain spotted fever). Primary vector for R. rickettsii transmission in the southwestern United States and along the U.S.-Mexico border.

COMMENTS Dogs are the primary host for the brown dog tick in each of its life stages, but the tick may also bite humans or other mammals.

GROUNDHOG TICK Ixodes cookei

WHERE FOUND Throughout the eastern half of the United States.

TRANSMITS Powassan virus (Powassan virus disease).

COMMENTS Also called woodchuck ticks. All life stages feed on a variety of warm-blooded animals, including groundhogs, skunks, squirrels, raccoons, foxes, weasels, and occasionally people and domestic animals. Photo courtesy of Steve Jacobs, PSU Entomology

GULF COAST TICK Amblyomma maculatum

WHERE FOUND Southeastern and mid-Atlantic states and southern Arizona.

TRANSMITS R. parkeri (R. parkeri rickettsiosis), a form of spotted fever.

COMMENTS Larvae and nymphs feed on birds and small rodents, while adult ticks feed on deer and other wildlife. Adult ticks have been associated with transmission of R. parkeri to humans.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN WOOD TICK Dermacentor andersoni

WHERE FOUND Rocky Mountain states.

TRANSMITS Rickettsia rickettsii (Rocky Mountain spotted fever), Colorado tick fever virus (Colorado tick fever), and Francisella tularensis (tularemia).

COMMENTS Adult ticks feed primarily on large mammals. Larvae and nymphs feed on small rodents. Adult ticks are primarily associated with pathogen transmission to humans.

SOFT TICK Ornithodoros spp.

WHERE FOUND Throughout the western half of the United States, including Texas.

TRANSMITS Borrelia hermsii, B. turicatae (tick-borne relapsing fever [TBRF]).

COMMENTS Humans typically come into contact with soft ticks in rustic cabins. The ticks emerge at night and feed briefly while people are sleeping. Most people are unaware that they have been bitten. In Texas, TBRF may be associated with cave exposure.

O. hermsi tick, before and after feeding. Photo taken by Gary Hettrick RML, NIAID.


WHERE FOUND In the Pacific Coast states.

TRANSMITS Anaplasma phagocytophilum (anaplasmosis), B. burgdorferi (Lyme disease), and very likely B. miyamotoi (Borrelia miyamotoi disease, a form of relapsing fever).

COMMENTS Larvae and nymphs often feed on lizards, birds, and rodents, and adults more commonly feed on deer. Although all life stages bite humans, nymphs and adult females are more often reported on humans.

Tick Removal

If you find a tick attached to your skin, simply remove the tick as soon as possible. There are several tick removal devices on the market, but a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers works very well.

How to remove a tick

  1. Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.

  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you cannot remove the mouth easily with tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

  4. Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by

    • Putting it in alcohol,

    • Placing it in a sealed bag/container,

    • Wrapping it tightly in tape, or

    • Flushing it down the toilet.

If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor:

  • Tell the doctor about your recent tick bite,

  • When the bite occurred, and

  • Where you most likely acquired the tick.

Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible–not waiting for it to detach.