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What Do Ticks Look Like?

How to Identify Those Pesky Pests

By Madeleine Burry. January 01, 2011 | See Comments

What Do Ticks Look Like?

Ticks are red or brown, small and have 8 legs. But they grow to double their size when they feed.

Ticks are most commonly red or brown, although coloring varies from species to species. Ticks are small in size, about ¼ to ¾ of an inch in length, making ticks similar in size to a sesame seed. After feeding, ticks become so bloated with newly ingested blood their size increases to nearly twice their unfed size, or more.

Extending outward from an adult tick’s body are eight legs and a small head. As larva, tick’s have only six legs. When not moving, a tick’s legs are generally folded up close to its body. Ticks have small mouth parts.

Hard Ticks

Hard ticks have a shield over their body. For males, this shield extends over the entire body, but the female shield covers only about a third of the tick’s body. Having a bigger shield around their body prevents the male ticks from ingesting as much blood as the females. Male ticks are a smaller size than female ticks.

Soft Ticks

Soft ticks do not have shields, and look somewhat like raisins, with a leathery, rough skin on their exteriors. Soft ticks have an oval shape, and it is difficult to distinguish the mouth parts from the body.

Tick Species

Many ticks have patterning on their backs, which can help distinguish the different species. Lone Star ticks are characterized, for instance, by a white, star-shaped design on their backs. Deer ticks are also known as Black Legged ticks because of their dark-colored legs.

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