Ticks in Virginia

Written by Brandi Allred
Published: June 21, 2022
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There are several common and several not-so-common species of ticks in Virginia. One of the most common is the blacklegged tick, which is also responsible for spreading Lyme disease through its saliva. All ticks are parasites that feed exclusively on blood. That blood might come from humans, lizards, birds, or other blood-bearing creatures. Ticks are arachnids, like scorpions, mites, and spiders. They’re not insects, like crickets, flies, or stick insects. They may be small, but ticks are the single greatest vector for Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and other illnesses in the United States.

Here, we’ll learn about all the ticks in Virginia. We’ll discover what they look like, what animals they bite, and what diseases they spread through their saliva. Then, we’ll go over Lyme disease in Virginia and which ticks carry it. Finally, we’ll explore the ways you can avoid tick bites when enjoying the great outdoors.

Common Ticks in Virginia

American Dog Tick

Female American Dog Tick, Dermacentor variabilis, sitting on a rock.

Only adult American dog ticks are capable of transmitting diseases to humans.

©Elliotte Rusty Harold/Shutterstock.com

American dog ticks are the largest ticks in Virginia. They feed on deer, rabbits, skunks, dogs, and humans, among other animals. They’re most active in the spring and summer months and tend to hang out along hiking trails. American dog ticks don’t carry Lyme disease, but they can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever to humans.

These ticks have medium brown bodies with brown legs. They’re also known as wood ticks, though they actually live primarily in grasslands. Females have distinct white scuta (shields over their shoulders), while males have mottled tan and brown bodies.

Lone Star Tick

Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum) on human skin. Lone star ticks look like tiny crabs, with round, fat bodies, eight short legs, and a hard shell.

Both nymph and adult lone star ticks can transmit diseases to humans.


Lone star ticks have some of the largest mouthparts of any ticks in Virginia. Because of this, their bites often lead to infection, so it’s important to properly clean and sterilize any bite after tick removal. Lone star tick females are easy to identify by the pinprick white marking on their backs. Males have some dark mottling but no dot, which may be harder to recognize. 

Lone star ticks don’t carry Lyme disease, but they can pass human monocytic ehrlichiosis onto human hosts. They primarily feed on white-tailed deer and prefer wooded areas with plenty of underbrush.

Asian Longhorned Tick

Asian Longhorned Tick

The Asian longhorned tick is native to Asia.

©Public Domain

Asian longhorned ticks in Virginia are actually newcomers. They’re native to Asia and have only been recorded in the United States since 2017. They primarily prey on animals, like cows, horses, deer, badgers, and dogs. They have oval, brown bodies with very small heads and long legs. These ticks aren’t known to transmit any diseases to humans in the western hemisphere, though their bites should still be closely monitored and treated.

Blacklegged Tick

A Deer tick, a parasitic biting insect on background of human epidermis.

Both nymph and adult blacklegged ticks transmit disease to humans.

©iStock.com/Ladislav Kubeš

Also known as deer ticks, blacklegged ticks feed primarily on white-tailed deer. However, in the spring and summer months, they frequently bite people. These are the only ticks in Virginia capable of transmitting Lyme disease. Cases of Lyme disease are on the rise throughout the United States, but particularly in the northeastern part of the country.

Blacklegged ticks are easily recognized by their black legs. Females are the only ones that bite humans; both nymph and adult-aged females can spread Lyme disease. Adult females have mahogany brown bodies, black legs, and black scuta, in addition to large, black mouthparts. If you think you’ve been bitten by a blacklegged tick, remove it as soon as possible, and kill it with rubbing alcohol. Then, mail it to a tick testing facility for Lyme disease testing.

Gulf Coast Tick

The Gulf Coast Tick

The Gulf Coast tick is only known to transmit Rickettsia parkeri as an adult.


Gulf Coast ticks in Virginia prefer grasslands and the edge zones between meadows and wooden areas. They bear a superficial resemblance to American dog ticks but lack both the overall size and the mouthpart size of the American dog tick. Gulf Coast ticks are so named because they live along the Gulf Coast region, as far south as Texas and as far north as New Jersey. These ticks frequently bite large animals, like deer, cows, goats, and horses. Bites to humans are infrequent; Gulf Coast ticks do not carry Lyme disease.

Brown Dog Tick

Close-up of brown dog tick crawling on human skin.

The brown dog tick is a vector for canine-specific diseases, which only nymphs and adults spread.


Brown dog ticks are the only ticks in Virginia that live indoors; they’re rarely encountered in nature. Instead, they live inside, wherever there are dogs. Brown dog ticks are usually found in dog crates, kennels, beds, or in the walls and ceilings of rooms that dogs frequent. They do not carry Lyme disease but can pass dog-specific diseases onto canines.

Do Ticks in Virginia have Lyme Disease?

There is only one tick in Virginia that carries Lyme disease, and that’s the blacklegged tick. These ticks need to be embedded for at least 36 hours to transmit the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease. One of the first signs of Lyme disease is a bullseye-shaped rash around the bite. If you’ve been bitten by a blacklegged tick, seek medical advice, and monitor yourself for symptoms for one month after the bite.

How to Avoid Ticks in Virginia

Two deer ticks isolated on white background.

When going into tick country, wear light colors.


If you’re planning to hike in Virginia, particularly in the spring or summer, it’s important to take the proper precautions against ticks. First, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Second, spray your clothing and shoes with insect repellent (never spray your skin). And third, always perform a self check for ticks after any outdoor activity. Remember, ticks can’t run or jump, so stay out of thick underbrush and tall grass and protect your skin.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Evgeniyqw/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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