Deer tick vs wood tick

Image via flickr by S. Rae

If you enjoy spending time outside, from gardening to camping, you could be at risk for encountering a tick. These pests are small and often hard to see. They can easily attach to your body and are more than annoying. Ticks can also cause serious health problems.

There are 800 species of ticks throughout the world, and knowing the difference between deer tick vs. wood tick is important. That’s why we put together this handy guide for identifying these two tick species. That way, you’ll know what to do if either one ends up on you — or someone you love. Let’s discover everything you want to know about the deer tick vs. wood tick.

What Is the Difference Between a Deer tick vs. Wood tick?

Ticks are little creatures, so it can be hard to tell the difference between deer tick vs. wood tick using the naked eye. One thing they both have in common though, is they want to suck your blood.

A deer tick, scientifically known as Ixodes scapularis, has black-legs. Often considered a “regular tick,” its bite affects your joints, skin, heart, and nervous system. The deer tick is found predominately in the type of forest where trees lose their leaves each fall. Deer ticks depend on their favorite host, the white-tailed deer to distribute their eggs over the habitat.

A wood tick, or Dermacentor variabilis, is also called an American dog tick. These ticks are found mainly in grassy fields, near brush, and along pathways. Unlike the deer tick, it prefers areas with little or no tree cover. The wood tick will feed on a variety of hosts, from mice to deer, and of course dogs.

Life Cycle

A deer tick’s life cycle can last as long as two years. American dog ticks are even hardier. It can survive for two years at any given stage, from larvae to adult, if it can’t find a host to bite.

Color

Both deer and wood tick species have a U-shaped back in common. So how do you tell them apart? The big difference is in the color of their lower back area. A deer tick’s back is red while a wood tick’s back is black. Wood or dog tick females are also identifiable by the large silver or off-white spot against their dark body.

Seasonal Behavior

A deer tick in its larvae or nymph stage is usually active in the spring and summer, while the adult of this species is more active in the spring and fall. An adult wood tick is more active during the months from spring to early summer, including May, June, and July.

Diet

Both varieties of ticks share a similar diet — blood. When they are young, in their larval stage, they feed on small mammals like mice and birds. When they grow into adulthood, their primary target becomes larger animals like deer, dogs, and humans like you.

What Size Are They? Deer tick vs. Wood tick

With a wood tick’s size, it all depends on whether or not they’ve eaten. Wood ticks are usually three-sixteenths inches long before eating. With a full stomach, a female wood tick’s silver-colored spot behind its head can grow to an impressive one-half-inch long. Average deer tick size, whether male or female, is close to a one-eighth inch long, when not engorged with blood.

Do Wood Ticks Carry Lyme Disease?

When you’re comparing deer tick vs. dog tick, know the difference. The deer tick carries Lyme disease, and Wood or American dog tick is not believed to carry this pathogen.

Deer ticks at both the nymph and adult stages are believed to transmit several diseases to humans. These ailments include Lyme disease, as well as Babesiosis and Anaplasmosis. Lyme disease is pretty unpleasant and can cause severe health issues. Its primary symptoms are bulls-eye skin rash and flu-like symptoms, including fever and body aches. Babesiosis, also called Nuttallia, is caused by a parasite transmitted by the tick, while a bacteria causes Anaplasmosis. This illness causes fever, headache, chills, and muscle aches.

Wood tick nymphs and adults can transmit other diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia. Spotted Fever brings on symptoms such as fever, spotty rash, fatigue, and nausea.

Both varieties of ticks can transmit other serious illnesses. That’s why it’s essential to make sure you check yourself, your loved ones, and your pets for ticks every time you come inside. Seek prompt medical attention if you exhibit any of these symptoms, especially if you believe a tick of any kind has bitten you.

Protect Yourself from Deer ticks and Wood ticks

Regardless of the type of tick, you’re dealing with, deer tick or wood tick, you can apply some of the same strategies to protect yourself from their bite. When you know you’ll soon be heading into their territory, first discover what pests live in your area.

Wear long-sleeved shirts with pants, and long socks, regardless of the time of year. Long clothing and insect repellent may keep deer and dog ticks from taking up residence on your body, but these pests can easily attach to your clothing and hitch a ride home, too.

If a tick does land on you, you probably won’t feel it. They’re not like mosquitoes that cause a tickling sensation when they land, then a stinging pain when they bite. Make sure to check for ticks at the end of the day and consult your vet for tick repellent if you’re concerned about the health and wellness of your four-legged friends too.

Summertime means more time spent exploring the outdoors. This time of year also means more of nature’s most infamous pests. Protect yourself and your family. Seek professional help for your particular needs in dealing with a tick infestation.

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