Tick Identification Guide

Tick Species Identification

Of the hundreds of tick species in existence, humans contract most tick-borne diseases from just three types of tick: blacklegged ticks, dog ticks, and lone star ticks. Select a tick image or name to learn more about each species.

The Tick Research Lab of Pennsylvania can test each of these tick species for common pathogens. Our tick DNA tests are 99.9% accurate.

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Ticks are found all over North America. Of the hundreds of tick species, many live in the wilderness, feeding only on animals. Some of the more common species inhabit the same areas as humans, feeding on people and pets.

Species that pose a threat to humans and pets include the deer tick (a blacklegged tick), the Western blacklegged tick, the American dog tick, the brown dog tick, and the lone star tick. While these species share many traits and behaviors, each is capable of carrying different pathogens.

Knowing about the ticks in your area and their life stages will help you protect yourself, your family, and your pets from dangerous tick-borne diseases. The information on this page can help you identify ticks that may be a threat to your health.

The tick life cycle consists of four stages. Tick adults lay eggs. Newly-hatched ticks, known as larvae, grow into nymphs and later become adult ticks. Larvae, nymphs, and adult females all feed on blood. If a host is infected with a tick-borne disease, it can infect the tick, which may pass the disease to its next host.

Identifying Tick Life Stages

Larval Stage

The larval stage is the first stage after a tick hatches. Larvae have six legs. Identification can be difficult, but a professional can determine the species using a microscope. Even larval ticks can spread certain pathogens.

Nymph Stage

Tick nymphs have 8-legs like adults and can be as small as a poppy seed. A nymph has a pale abdomen and a dorsal shield covering its back. Ticks at this stage may be difficult to identify with the naked eye but can be identified in a lab or by an expert.

Adult Stage

Each species has identifying features that are most distinguishable in the adult stage. They can be identified based on the festoons on the edge of the abdominal area, the appearance of the dorsal shield, and the shape of the mouth parts. Size can also be used in identification.

Parts of a Tick