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About Ticks


In the US, there are several kinds of ticks. The two found in the Northeast are the common dog tick and the black-legged tick, also called the deer tick. The black-legged tick is the usual vector for Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, though dog ticks are also known to carry diseases. Dog ticks are larger, more rounded, and darker overall than the black-legged tick. The black-legged tick has a reddish or red-brown outline. Before feeding, it is about the size of a sesame seed. Engorged, it is the size of a small watermelon seed. Its nymph may resemble a freckle or small scab. See bottom of page for instructions on removing ticks.

Ticks can bite at any stage of their life cycle. Here is an adult female deer tick, next to a dime, for scale:
Ticks can bite at any stage of their life cycle. Here is an adult female deer tick, next to a dime, for scale:

This is a nymph deer tick, much enlarged. It could fit into the base of the "I" on the dime. This is a larval deer tick, much enlarged. It can fit into the base of the "I" in the dime picture at left. In life, it can be as small as the period at the end a sentence.

In life, it can be as small as this red dot: .


While adult ticks may feed on deer or other large animals, the larval form feeds on small animals, commonly rodents such as the white-footed mouse, many of which are carriers of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases. The larva then molt into nymphs, and are able to pass on the diseases at the next feeding.

In cold weather, ticks become dormant and hide in litter and other protected places. When temperatures are above freezing, both adult and nymph ticks climb onto the tips of grasses and shrubs to wait for a warm-blooded animal to brush against it. A tick can hide in folds of cloth, hair, or skin for several hours before feeding. The bite is painless, and its victim may not be aware of it.

IT IS IMPORTANT to carefully examine one's body thoroughly for the presence of ticks as soon as possible after being in grassy or brushy areas, including back yards. Clothing should immediately be put into a hot dryer for at least 15 minutes. Ticks can survive the washing machine, but are killed by hot dry air.


  • About ticks

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To remove a tick:
  • Use tweezers with a pointed but not sharp tip. Slip the tip of the tweezers under the tick and grasp the mouth parts. Be careful not to squeeze the body of the tick.
  • Slowly but firmly pull straight out with the tweezers until the tick releases its hold.
  • Place tick in a closed container and label it for later testing. Clean bite area with antiseptic, and wash hands thoroughly afterward.