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Tick (Dermacentor sp.)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Tick

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Image Credit: Justin G. from St. Louis, MO
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Image Credit: Justin G. from St. Louis, MO
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Image Credit: Chris N. from FL
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Ticks are tiny, but their reputation for disease and animal irritation make their recognition an important skill.

Updated: 01/06/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Ticks are parasites that feed off the blood of a host. Almost any warm-blooded animal will suffice. As they feed, they release anticoagulants, special chemicals that prevent blood from clotting. Their mouths are so tiny that most hosts like people and dogs do not feel the bite. They might not even realize they were a host even after the tick leaves. Fortunately, the American Dog Tick is not known to carry Lyme Disease, the most popular affliction associated with ticks.

Ticks are not insects, they are arachnids, which means they have 8 legs. Some ticks are round (like beans) while others are flat with festoons (folds that look like a ridge) around their abdomen. All ticks are parasitic. Their body shape color can greatly change after a blood meal. Flat, hungry ticks become inflated like a balloon after a full meal. Color may change also.

Some, but not all tick bites can develop a red ring, like a target, around the bite site. Complete and speedy removal of a tick from a host can help avoid the spread of tick-borne diseases. Tweezers are helpful in grasping the tick by the head so all the mouth parts are removed. Grabbing the tick by the body may result in breaking it off, leaving the head and mouth embedded in skin.

Some species of tick are capable of spreading disease to humans, like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Although the infectious agent does not affect the tick, once it is passed through the tick's saliva into the human bloodstream, it can cause an array of symptoms including fatigue, headaches, and general malaise. If you suspect you have been bitten by a tick, seeking the advice of a medical professional as soon as possible is prudent.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Insect biting icon
Harmful insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Arachnida
      Order: Acari
        Family: Ixodidae
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          Genus: Dermacentor
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            Species: sp.

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Dermacentor sp.
Category: Mite or Tick
Size (Adult; Length): 3mm to 5mm (0.11" to 0.19")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; brown; orange; red; yellow; pink
Descriptors: biting; harmful

Tick Video(s)

A large, flat Tick walking along door trim.

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 3mm (0.1in) and 5mm (0.2in)
Lo: 3mm
Md: 4mm
Hi: 5mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Canadian territory of Alberta graphic
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Canadian territory of Newfoundland and Labrador graphic
Canadian territory of Ontario graphic
Canadian territory of Quebec graphic
Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Tick may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Tick. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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