Ticks can be found on all seven continents, including Antarctica. Their populations have been exploding worldwide due to factors like climate change. Because areas are warming and staying warmer longer, ticks now inhabit wider ranges than they have historically.
We think of ticks as bugs, but they’re not insects. They’re arachnids like spiders that live solely on the blood of animals. As they go through different phases of their life cycle, they feed on multiple animals. Some of these animals are disease reservoirs. When a tick feeds on the infected blood of something like a rat and then bites a human, the person will now be exposed to whatever was in the first animal’s blood.
In the last year, concerns about the growing tick population in Connecticut had residents concerned. There are usually 3,000 recorded tick bites in the state, but in 2021, there were 5,685. That makes ticks something that needs to be a popular topic of discussion in Connecticut, and a good place to start is to understand the most common ticks you will encounter.
What six ticks in Connecticut are important to know about so you can avoid them? We’ll take a closer look at them now.
1. Gulf Coast Tick
Gulf Coast ticks have dark bodies with reddish legs. These ticks transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Rickettsia parkeri. Their bodies are reddish-brown with tannish legs.
Gulf Coast ticks recently made it to Fairfield County and are primarily found on cattle. They will make a meal of dogs and humans if it’s convenient. Meadows are their preferred habitat which makes it easy for cows to pick them up when out grazing.
Screwworm infections in cattle are largely caused by Gulf Coast ticks. The ticks don’t spread the screwworm infection directly, but they create open sores on the animal when they fall off. Flies then lay their eggs in these open sores, causing the sometimes deadly parasitic screwworm infection.
These ticks are often confused with American dog ticks because they look alike. However, their back markings and leg coloring are slightly different. It’s possible to tell the difference with a discerning eye.
2. American Dog Tick
American dog ticks are the most common ticks you’ll find in the state of Connecticut on humans and dogs. They like to hang out in fields and on shrubbery, where they wait for unsuspecting prey to walk by.
These ticks are brown, with females having white markings on their backs. American dog ticks are the primary vectors for Rocky Mountain spotted fever. They also transmit tularemia.
American dog ticks like to hang out in armpits, ears, and between the toes of dogs. If you suspect your pet may have been in a tick-infested area, concentrate on inspecting these specific regions for ticks.
3. Brown Dog Tick
Unlike most ticks, brown dog ticks don’t live outside. They prefer to be indoors in areas like kennels and dog bedding, where they have quick access to their favorite prey. Their bodies are narrower than most ticks, and they’re a reddish-brown color.
The only good news about these ticks is that they rarely bite humans even though they infest homes. That doesn’t mean they won’t bite; if they’re hungry enough, they’ll take any mammal as a host.
4. Lone Star Tick
For some reason, bites from this tick can make one develop an allergy to red meat. It is also a known vector of a variety of diseases, including tularemia and southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI).
Lone star ticks are the most easily identifiable out of the most common ticks found in Connecticut. Females have a single white dot on their back, which starkly contrasts their reddish-brown bodies. However, they’re as tiny as a poppyseed, so they are hard to detect with the naked eye.
While these ticks are most commonly found on white-tailed deer, they are opportunistic feeders and will readily attach to any animal that crosses their path. They’re aggressive about finding prey in the summer when they’re most active. They’re not like most ticks because they actively pursue prey instead of waiting for it to come to them.
5. Deer Tick
Deer ticks are also called black-legged ticks because they have characteristic black legs. Their bodies are a reddish-brown color, with females being more orange. They’re most commonly found where fields meet forests. These ticks are the primary vectors of Lyme disease. Where they are prevalent, antibodies for Lyme disease are present in the local deer population.
These ticks are active all winter and will be on the prowl as long as it’s above freezing. When it’s below freezing, they hang out in ground debris and leaf litter.
Deer ticks, second only to American dog ticks, are one of the most common ticks in the state. Over 75% of the ticks caught during one survey of tick populations in 2021 were deer ticks. That makes these ticks one of the most important ticks that live in Connecticut, especially because they carry Lyme disease.
6. Asian Long-Horned Tick
These ticks are spreading quickly across the United States. In Connecticut, they are found in New Haven and Fairfield counties. While it still hasn’t been definitively proven, it is believed that the Asian long-horned tick may join the deer tick as a vector for Lyme disease.
The Asian long-horned tick has a reddish-brown body with a smaller head than the average tick. It’ll feed on a variety of animals, but it prefers cattle. Male ticks are much smaller than females.
Asian long-horned ticks live in grasslands and forests, with their highest activity levels occurring in the summer.