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by Kathy Dannel Vitcak 3 min read


blood sucking ticks


TICK SEASON is an actually season here in Minnesota. It arrives right after spring officially starts and before the flies descend upon us. Of course, the mosquitoes are here from thaw to freeze...sigh.

But ticks are extra gruesome. Not only do they have the nerve to suck the blood of man and beast, but they gorge on our blood until they are HUGE. Did you ever get a tick on you? Wasn't it one of the most unsettling experiences? You look down or scratch your head and there is something attached to eat, literally sucking your blood. And it does not look anything like Alexander Skarsgård‎. Can you believe I got the little thing over the a?


There are as many rumors about which ticks are the bad ones and which ones are the REALLY bad ones. I refuse to call any of them GOOD.

Here is the lowdown on these vile arachnids. There are hundreds of different kinds of ticks in North America alone. As you may imagine, there are a bazillion resources available online written all about ticks. Google "Tick identification (your state)" for the best info for where you like. 

Some ticks are only found on wild animals or birds and you would probably never encounter them. Others are everywhere humans are. 

The most common ticks that we may encounter are:

  • Deer tick
  • American dog tick
  • Lone-star tick
  • Brown dog tick
  • Western black-legged tick


Ticks have four life cycles:

  • Egg
  • Larva
  • Nymph
  • Adult

Larvae, nymphs, and adults all feed on the blood of their host (you, me, our beloved dogs, etc.) and can contract all sorts of diseases from the host/victim at every single stage.

They can then infect the victim of their next meal with the disease they picked up from an earlier snack.


Usually babies of any species are kinda cute. Puppies, kittens, baby chicks, NOT TICKS. They are tiny and hard to see, but in essence look like teeny, tiny adults, but with six legs, not eight. That makes no sense...

Larval ticks have not partaken of a blood meal yet, so cannot infect you, except in rare cases. In all sad honesty, you would probably not be able to see a larval tick, as they are literally microscopic.


Nymphs brings to mind a lovely creature, like a fairy of some sort, NOT an adolescent tick. They need to change the name of this stage...misleading.

Nymphal ticks now have their adult eight legs and a dorsal shield (plate over their back). They are about the size of a sesame seed and their underside is very pale colored. 


Adult ticks have eight legs, a full dorsal shield, and their blood-sucking mouthparts are easily visible. Nice, huh?

Each species has a definitive body shape, color and variations. Tick experts use the following distinguishing features to tell the different tick species apart; festoons (patterns on outer belly), blood-sucking mouth area shape and size, and the always festive dorsal shield adornment. 

Below is a chart to help you identify any of the nasty little beasts you may come into contact with. 

Let me digress a bit...what on earth would entice someone to become a tick expert? How cute ticks are? Their cuddle factor? How much fun they are to play with? I am glad there are dedicated scientists out there working hard to keep us safe from ticks, but I'll stick with dogs! Really, sending proper respect to tick specialists. But, I do wonder if they love killing them as much as I do?

identify ticks


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