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Black-Legged Tick (Ixodes scapularis)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Black-Legged Tick.

 Updated: 2/8/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




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



The Black-Legged Tick is a carrier of Lyme disease and transmit it to humans. This arachnid picks up the Lyme disease-causing bacteria by feeding on mice and deer. 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 transfer and infect. Because of this, the Center for Disease Control in the U.S. encourages people who finds ticks on themselves 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's head and feeding tube 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 diagnosis of Lyme Disease improves treatment effectiveness and symptom management.

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 bites the victim without pain because its saliva has an anesthetic chemical in it that numbs the bite site. A barbed feeding tube helps keep it latched on more securely. It draws a blood meal from the host until it is engorged with blood, and its abdomen more than doubles in size, turning redder in color. Ticks may feed on the same host for days. Not all tick bites leave a red ring around the wound, but the presence of one may indicate a bite.

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 dark brown or even black, while females feature red-orange coloring. Tick nymphs are most active during the spring and summer months, when a majority of potential hosts are also most active.




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Arachnida
      Order: Acari
        Family: Ixodidae
          Genus: Ixodes
            Species: scapularis
Identifying Information
Scientific Name: Ixodes scapularis
Other Name(s): Deer Tick
Category: Mite or Tick
Size (Adult; Length): 3mm to 4mm (0.12in to 0.16in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; red; black
Descriptors: biting, harmful, 8 legs
Territorial Map
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
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Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
Canadian National Flag Graphic
Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Mexican National Flag Graphic
Mexico
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.