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How to identify ticks

Ticks are commonly referred to as insects, but they are technically arachnids because they have eight legs. As larvae, they have six legs. 

Ticks are identified by their scutum, or shield. This is the body of the tick. A deer tick has a solid colored scutum but other species will have patterns. The scutum of the tick can also identify the sex of the tick. A female tick has a smaller scutum while the male has a larger one. 

The mouthpart, or capitulum, is another way of identifying the sex of a tick. For example, a female deer tick has a larger capitulum than a male deer tick because male deer ticks don’t feed. 

Ticks are easier to identify once they are done feeding because their body becomes engorged. The scutum remains the same size, but the body will become larger and change color once feeding is complete. The colors range from brownish red to pale gray or greenish grey. 


Common tick species

Common tick species that are found in the western U.S. are:

  • Western black-legged tick- This tick is found throughout coastal California, the Sierra Nevada range, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho and Utah. This tick is a vector of Lyme disease and measures in at about 3 mm in length. The female has a dark reddish abdomen and the male has a blackish abdomen. Their larva is lighter in color about one quarter as large as adults.
  • Brown dog tick - This reddish brown tick prefers dogs but will also latch onto humans if given the opportunity. Prior to eating, adult ticks are about 1/8 inch long and recently fed female ticks are about 1/2 inch long with a blueish-grey tint to their body.
  • Rocky mountain wood tick - The wood tick received its name due to the fact it prefers to reside in wooded areas. The tick is brown when not fed but then becomes gray after feeding. The Rocky Mountain Wood tick has a flat, oval shape, similar to other tick species. As an adult, it grows as long as 1/8 inch. This tick carries the notorious Rocky Mountain spotted fever and can also transmit Colorado tick fever and tularemia.

Pictures of ticks

Below are images of tick species commonly found in the western U.S. 

Tick Eggs

How to identify tick eggs

Due to the size of tick larvae, or eggs, it's much easier to identify adult ticks than their eggs. Tick eggs are very small, round and typically reddish brown in color. 

Ticks go through four life stages which include the egg, six-legged larvae, eight-legged larvae nymph and adult. After a tick hatches from its egg, it must have a blood meal at every life stage in order to survive. A female tick can lay anywhere from 2,000 to 18,000 eggs at one time, so they're usually hatched in clusters. 

How to prevent ticks

The best way to prevent ticks is the assistance of a professional pest control company. Not all DIY methods are proven to work, but a professional pest control service has proven methods to deter ticks from invading your property. For more information on our tick control services, call 800-937-8398 or fill out our online contact form.

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