New Jersey is home to at least six species of ticks. The three most common ticks in New Jersey are the lone star tick, deer tick, and American dog tick. Of these three, only one is capable of transmitting Lyme disease.
Here, we’ll take a closer look at the six types of ticks found in New Jersey, and how to identify them. Then, we’ll learn about the most active times of year for ticks, and where you can expect to see them. Finally, we’ll talk a little more about Lyme disease in New Jersey, and what you should look out for.
List of Ticks in New Jersey
1. American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis)
American dog ticks have large, ovoid bodies. Females have a tan and white scutum (the plate behind the shoulders) and a brown body, while males have all over tan and white bodies. These ticks live in fields and hunt by sitting on the tips of blades of grass, waiting for hosts to pass by. American dog ticks are the primary vectors for Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which can cause serious complications in humans.
2. Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum)
Female lone star ticks are easily recognized by the single white dot on their backs. Males lack this dot but have brown bodies and brown legs like the females. Lone star ticks have extremely large mouthparts, which means that their bite is deeper than other species of ticks in New Jersey, and more often leads to infection. These ticks are the primary vectors for ehrlichiosis, a potentially serious illness.
3. Woodchuck Tick (Ixodes cookie)
Woodchuck ticks look very similar to deer ticks, but with one big difference; they lack black legs. These ticks commonly feed on small to medium-sized animals, like woodchucks, groundhogs, badgers, foxes, squirrels, rats, and rabbits. Bites to humans are rare, though woodchuck ticks are vectors for the Powassan virus. In addition to lacking the black legs of deer ticks, woodchuck ticks also lack their distinct mahogany brown color.
4. Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis)
Deer ticks are the most troublesome of all the ticks in New Jersey. They’re the only type of ticks known to carry Lyme disease, which they pass onto humans through their bite. Luckily, these ticks are easily recognizable by their black legs and, in females, black scuta. They’re the only type of ticks with black legs. If bitten by a deer tick, carefully monitor the area around the bite for the appearance of a bullseye-shaped rash. If you notice this rash or any other symptoms of Lyme disease, contact your doctor right away.
5. Asian Longhorned Tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis)
Asian longhorned ticks are the only invasive species of tick in New Jersey. These ticks have red-brown bodies with red-brown legs and very small heads. They prey on everything from cows and sheep to dogs and humans. Currently, scientists aren’t sure what habitats they prefer, though it’s likely that they congregate wherever there are many hosts. Bites to humans are rare, and these ticks do not appear to carry Lyme disease.
6. Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)
One of the smallest species of ticks in New Jersey, the brown dog tick primarily feeds on dogs. Unlike other, more outdoorsy, species of tick, the brown dog tick lives entirely indoors. Brown dog ticks have small, almost rectangular brown bodies with brown legs. Unlike American dog ticks and lone star ticks, brown dog ticks have no tan mottling. They are vectors for several canine-specific diseases, as well as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, though they rarely bite humans. The best way to prevent brown dog ticks from feeding off your dog is to treat your furry friend with preventive tick and flea medication.
Where are Ticks Found in New Jersey?
Ticks in New Jersey live in forested areas, open fields, and the edge zones in between the two. Brown dog ticks live indoors, near canines. Outdoors, the easiest way to avoid ticks is by staying out of tall grasses and dense shrubs. Also, avoid digging around in the leaf litter on forest floors, as ticks live and breed in these areas.
Is Lyme Disease Common in New Jersey?
New Jersey is third in the nation (behind New York and Pennsylvania) for cases of Lyme disease. This makes it especially important to understand where and when you might encounter ticks in New Jersey. Of particular importance is taking the proper steps for preventing tick bites. These include using permethrin-containing insect repellent (only on your clothes, never your skin), wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and performing regular tick checks on yourself and your companions.
What Times of Year are Ticks Most Active in New Jersey?
Ticks in New Jersey are most active in the spring and summer months. In the winter, they either hibernate or die. Females lay eggs in late fall or early spring, and the larvae hatch in late spring or early summer. Ticks are most active in the spring and fall when temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold. The big tick months in New Jersey are May, June, and July.