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Insect Identification

Black-Legged Tick - (Ixodes scapularis)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 11/20/2013

The Black-Legged Tick is an arachnid with a bite that can do more damage than most spiders.

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The Black-Legged Tick is a carrier of Lyme disease. This arachnid picks up the Lyme disease-causing bacteria from feeding on mice and deer.

Commonly found in the Eastern United States, the Black-Legged Tick adult sits on low plant vegetation (shrubs, ferns, flowers) until a potential host animal walks by. With its front legs outstretched, it clings onto whatever it can: fur, tail, clothing, etc. It then crawls to to warmer parts of the body because blood is closer to the surface in those areas. It will bite the victim without pain as its saliva has an anesthetic chemical in it that numbs the bite site. It will drawn a blood meal from the host until it is engorged with blood and the abdomen will expand in size, turning redder in color. Ticks may feed on a host for days. Their barbed feeding tube helps keep them latched on more securely.

It is during feeding that the Lyme Disease causing bacteria can pass from the tick into the host (deer, human, mouse, etc.). The longer the tick has to feed, the greater the opportunity for the bacteria to move and infect. Because of this, The Center for Disease Control in the U.S. suggests people who finds ticks on themselves are encouraged to remove them as soon as possible. Because the infecting vector may be in the feeding tube, even if the tick is crushed or decapitated, it may still transmit the bacteria. Complete removal of the tick within 24 hours of the initial bite can reduce possible infection according to the CDC. If you have been bitten by a Black-Legged Tick, seek medical attention and get tested for Lyme Disease. Early treatment for Lyme Disease aids in better managing its symptoms.

All Ticks are arachnids, not insects. They have eight legs so counting legs of a creature crawling on you can aid in identifying them quickly. Males appear as a dark brown or even black coloring while females feature orange coloring. Tick nymphs are most active during the spring and summer months, when a majority of potential hosts are also most active.

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Category: Mite or Tick
Common name: Black-Legged Tick
Scientific Name: Ixodes scapularis
Other Names: Deer Tick

Taxonomy:
  Kingdom: Animalia
   Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Arachnida
     Order: Acari
      Family: Ixodidae
       Genus: Ixodes
        Species: scapularis

Adult Size (Length): 3mm to 4mm (0.12in to 0.16in) COMPARE

Identifying Colors: brown; red; black

General Description: biting, harmful, 8 legs


North American Reach (Though Not Limited To*): Minnesota; Iowa; Missouri; Oklahoma; Arkansas; Texas; Kansas; Wisconsin; Illinois; Indiana; Tennessee; Mississippi; Louisiana; Alabama; Kentucky; Indiana; Michigan; Ohio; West Virginia; North Carolina; South Carolina; Georgia; Florida; Virginia; Maryland; Delaware; Pennsylvania; New Jersey; New York; Connecticut; Massachusetts; Rhode Island; New Hampshire; Vermont; Maine


* Keep in mind that insect reach is not governed by lines on a map and therefore may appear in areas/regions/states beyond those listed above.


NOTE: Material presented throughout this website is for entertainment value and should not to be construed as usable for scientific research or medical advice (insect bites, etc...). Please consult licensed, degreed professionals for such information. Email corrections / Comments to InsectIdentification at Gmail dot com.
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