Pest Information: Deer Ticks

The deer tick (Isodes scapularis) also known as the black-legged tick is found throughout the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and some areas of the Southwest. Deer ticks are the primary vector for a variety of diseases including Lyme disease, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis. Over the past 10 years over 100,000 cases of disease caused by deer ticks have been reported. Deer tick populations continue to increase and as their populations grow so does the risk of contracting a tick-borne disease. As a consequence, there is an increased demand for pest managers to develop and implement effective deer tick control programs in both residential and recreational areas.

Deer ticks are parasites and must feed on blood to survive and reproduce. They begin their life as tiny eggs, which hatch into sexually immature larvae about the size of a grain of sand. The mobile stages of this pest climb onto foliage or structures like fences or buildings waiting for potential hosts to wander by. The larval ticks infest small animals, such as mice or birds, for several days, taking in blood until they are engorged and drop off the host, usually into leaf litter or thatch. The engorged larvae molt into sexually immature, eight-legged nymphs, which are about the size of a poppy seed. These nymphs then take a blood meal, usually on a small to medium sized mammal such as a squirrel or rabbit, feeding for four or five days. The engorged nymphs drop off the host and eventually molt into a sexually mature eight-legged adult. The adults latch onto a large mammal such as a deer where they mate where the females subsequently attach and feed for about a week. They then drop off and lay eggs. This whole process can take two years with peak activity occurring in different seasons. From a public health perspective, it is most important to control the nymphal tick because 90% of all Lyme disease cases are due to bites from this life stage.

Pest Best Management Practices