Guide to different tick species and the diseases they carry (2024)

Guide to different tick species and the diseases they carry

Related information

  • Ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis - Related informationEhrlichiosis and anaplasmosis
  • Lyme disease - Related informationLyme disease
  • Alpha-gal syndrome - Related informationAlpha-gal syndrome

From walking the dog to camping, it helps to know which ticks live in your area and what diseases they can spread. Most tick bites are painless or cause only minor symptoms, such as a change in skin color. But the bite from some ticks can be serious.

In the United States, the number of people diagnosed with tick-borne diseases has increased. In the years between 2004 and 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that tick-borne diseases rose from about 22,500 cases to about 50,800 cases. As of 2019, Lyme disease is the most often diagnosed tick-borne illness.

Here are images of unfed, human-biting ticks. The images also show where the ticks might be found in the U.S. and the diseases they're known to carry.

Black-legged tick or deer tick

The black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick, is mainly found in the eastern half and Midwest region of the U.S. The scientific name for this tick is Ixodes scapularis.

The black-legged tick can spread parasites, bacteria and a virus with its bite. The diseases humans can get from a black-legged tick bite are:

  • Anaplasmosis.
  • Babesiosis.
  • Ehrlichiosis due to Ehrlichia muris eauclairensis.
  • Lyme disease.
  • Borrelia miyamotoi disease.
  • Powassan virus disease.

Guide to different tick species and the diseases they carry (1)

Lone Star tick

The Lone Star tick is mainly found in the Southern and Eastern U.S. Its scientific name is Amblyomma americanum.

The Lone Star tick can spread:

  • Ehrlichiosis due to Ehrlichiosis chaffeensis and Ehrlichiosis ewingii.
  • Heartland virus disease.
  • Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI).
  • Bourbon virus disease.
  • Tularemia.

Guide to different tick species and the diseases they carry (2)

Alpha-gal syndrome and the Lone Star tick

Bites from the Lone Star tick can sometimes lead to alpha-gal syndrome, which is associated with a meat allergy. As the tick feeds, it transfers a sugar molecule called alpha-gal into the body. In some people, this molecule triggers a reaction from the body's immune system. It causes an allergic reaction to certain meats, such as beef, pork or lamb, but not poultry or fish. It also may cause reactions to other foods, such as dairy products or gelatins, that come from mammals.

American dog tick

The American dog tick is mainly found east of the U.S. Rocky Mountains. The scientific name for this tick is Dermacentor variabilis. The American dog tick also is found in some areas of the Pacific Coast. Those populations may be made up of D. variabilis or a related tick, Dermacentor similis.

American dog ticks can spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia.

Guide to different tick species and the diseases they carry (3)

Western black-legged tick

The western black-legged tick is mainly found along the U.S. Pacific Coast. The scientific name for this tick is Ixodes pacificus.

The Western black-legged tick can spread anaplasmosis, babesiosis and Lyme disease.

Guide to different tick species and the diseases they carry (4)

Rocky Mountain wood tick

The Rocky Mountain wood tick is mainly found in the U.S. Rocky Mountain states and southwestern Canada. The scientific name for this tick is Dermacentor andersoni.

The Rocky Mountain wood tick can spread Colorado tick fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia.

Guide to different tick species and the diseases they carry (5)

Brown dog tick

The brown dog tick can be found worldwide, including throughout the entire U.S. The scientific name is Rhipicephalus sanguineus. It's responsible for spreading Rocky Mountain spotted fever in the southwestern U.S. and along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Guide to different tick species and the diseases they carry (6)

Gulf Coast tick

The Gulf Coast tick is mainly found in U.S. states along the Atlantic Coast and Gulf Coast of Mexico. The scientific name for this tick is Amblyomma maculatum. This tick can spread a form of spotted fever called Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis.

Guide to different tick species and the diseases they carry (7)

Asian longhorned tick

The Asian longhorned tick is usually found in countries including eastern China, Japan, the Russian Far East and the Korean Peninsula.

Since 2017, the tick has been reported in a handful of U.S. states. Because these ticks are spreading rapidly, they are likely present in other states as well. The scientific name for this tick is Haemaphysalis longicornis.

The tick can spread germs that cause serious human diseases, such as anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis and rickettsiosis. But the risk of illness in humans in the U.S. from this tick's bite is still unknown.

Guide to different tick species and the diseases they carry (8)

Soft ticks

Soft ticks are a different type of tick from the black-legged tick or Lone Star tick. Soft ticks have soft, leathery bodies and bite for only short periods of time.

Soft ticks mainly bite rodents. But soft ticks also bite humans if they are nearby. Bites often happen when a person sleeps in a shelter or cabin where rodents have made nests.

One example of a soft tick is Ornithodoros hermsi. It is found at higher altitudes in the Western U.S. This tick, as well as other soft ticks, can spread borrelia bacteria to hosts and cause tick-borne relapsing fever.

Guide to different tick species and the diseases they carry (9)

Ticks and where to find them

Tick populations change from year to year. The shift is based on the ticks' access to places they like to live and the species they feed on, as well as the weather. Tick ranges grow or shrink depending on trends in these factors over time.

Local resources, such as state health departments, can give you detailed knowledge on ticks before you head outdoors.

In general, ticks live in places with long grass or in wooded areas with trees and shrubs. Ticks also like places with a layer of decaying plant material, called leaf litter.

Preventing tick bites

Your body heat, breath, motion and scent are what ticks use to find you. Ticks also use a range of strategies to find prey. Some tend to climb tall grass or other vegetation, while others wait in dead logs or leaf litter.

Suggestions on how to avoid tick bites include:

  • Wear light-colored clothing. Plan to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into light-colored socks. It can help you see any ticks before they make it to your skin.
  • Use a tick repellent. Experts suggest treating your clothing, camping gear and skin with repellents designed for each use.

    Examples of chemicals that may be in tick repellents are N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide — also called DEET — permethrin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) and picaridin. Check the directions on each product. Some can't be used on the skin or clothing. Don't use certain products on children younger than age 3.

  • Check for ticks right away after going back indoors. Take a shower or bath and check for ticks right after you get home. Check in hair and at the hairline, around the ears, under the arms, between the legs, and on the backs of the knees. Check at the waistband of pants and the cuffs of socks.
  • Make sure pets are tick-free. Pets can get sick from the bacteria and parasites ticks spread. So make sure your pet is treated to prevent tick bites. And check for ticks on any pets that go outside.
  • Wash clothes in hot water and dry on the high setting. Heat can help get rid of ticks that might still be on your clothes.
  • If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers or something similar. Experts say not to burn the tick or coat it with anything. Remove the tick by putting a pair of tweezers as close as possible to where the tick is attached to your skin. Pull on the tick with steady pressure. Then wash the area with soap and water, or with rubbing alcohol.

    Take a picture of the tick, or if you can safely do it, save the tick so your healthcare team can identify the tick species. That can help with a diagnosis if you start to feel sick.

If you find a tick, don't panic.

Getting a tick off as quickly as possible can help lower the chance that you'll get a disease spread by ticks.

Remove it, save it and contact your healthcare professional if you are in an area with a high rate of Lyme disease. Areas in the U.S. with higher rates of Lyme disease include the Northeast, Minnesota, Wisconsin and areas around Lake Michigan.

See your healthcare team if you notice a rash, fever, extreme tiredness, or joint swelling and pain within 30 days of the tick bite.

Nov. 14, 2023

  1. Regions where ticks live. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed June 22, 2023.
  2. Rosenberg R, et al. Vital signs: Trends in reported vectorborne disease cases — United States and territories, 2004-2016. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2018; doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6717e1.
  3. Tickborne disease surveillance data summary. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed Dec. 8, 2023.
  4. Tickborne diseases of the United States: A reference manual for health care providers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed Dec. 8, 2023.
  5. Pujalte GGA, et al. Tick-borne illnesses in the United States. 2018; doi:10.1016/j.pop.2018.05.011.
  6. Pritt BS (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. Aug. 1, 2023.
  7. Alpha-gal and red meat allergy. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Accessed Sept. 15, 2023.
  8. Eisen L. Tick species infesting humans in the United States. Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases. 2022; doi:10.1016/j.ttbdis.2022.102025.
  9. The interface between invasive species and the increased incidence of tick-borne diseases, and the implications for federal land managers. National Invasive Species Council. Accessed Sept. 15, 2023.
  10. Preventing tick bites. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed July 29, 2023.
  11. What you need to know about Asian longhorned ticks — A new tick in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. accessed. Accessed July 29, 2023.
  12. Ho BM, et al. Wilderness Medical Society clinical practice guidelines for the prevention and management of tick-borne illness in the United States. Wilderness and Environmental Medicine. 2021; doi:10.1016/j.wem.2021.09.001.
  13. Lantos PM, et al. Clinical practice guidelines by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), American Academy of Neurology (AAN), and American College of Rheumatology (ACR): 2020 guidelines for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of Lyme disease. Arthritis and Rheumatology. 2020; doi:10.1002/art.41562.
  14. Eisen L. Personal protection measures to prevent tick bites in the United States: Knowledge gaps, challenges, and opportunities. Tick and Tick-borne Diseases. 2022; doi:/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2022.101944.
  15. Lyme disease map. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed Sept. 28, 2023.
  16. Tick removal. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed Sept. 28, 2023.

See more In-depth

See also

  1. Abdominal pain
  2. Allergy skin tests
  3. Alpha-gal syndrome
  4. Anaphylaxis
  5. Anaphylaxis: First aid
  6. Hives and angioedema
  7. Itchy skin (pruritus)
  8. Nausea and vomiting
  9. Runny nose
  10. Shortness of breath
  11. Allergy tests
  12. Wheezing


Guide to different tick species and the diseases they carry (2024)


How many different diseases can a tick carry? ›

Some of the most common tick-borne diseases in the United States include: Lyme disease, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, anaplasmosis, Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever, and tularemia.

What are the 7 classifications of tick? ›

3 more rows

How many different species of ticks are there? ›

There are around 850 different tick species found throughout the world, belonging to two major families. These are hard ticks, known as Ixodidae, and soft ticks, known as Argasidae.

What ticks carry Lyme disease the most? ›

Lyme disease is caused by borrelia bacteria. In North America, the black-legged tick, also called the deer tick, mainly carry the bacteria. In Europe, a different species of borrelia causes Lyme disease.

What state has no ticks? ›

States with the fewest ticks carrying these diseases are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. They do, however, have tick species that carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and tick paralysis, among others.

What are the odds of a tick carrying a disease? ›

Ticks prefer to live in wooded areas, low-growing grasslands, and yards. Not all ticks carry the Lyme disease bacteria. Depending on the location, anywhere from less than 1% to more than 50% of the ticks are infected with it. While most tick bites are harmless, several species can cause life-threatening diseases.

What type of tick is bad? ›

The black-legged tick can spread parasites, bacteria and a virus with its bite. The diseases humans can get from a black-legged tick bite are: Anaplasmosis. Babesiosis.

What kills 5 types of ticks? ›

FDA-approved to block infections that may cause Lyme disease, Simparica Trio has been proven to kill five types of ticks: Gulf Coast ticks, deer ticks, American dog ticks, lone star ticks, and brown dog ticks.

What disease do you get from a tick bite? ›

Tick-borne diseases and conditions are transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. These include Alpha-gal syndrome (AGS), Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, Powassan (POW), Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Tularemia. Ticks can be infected with bacteria, viruses, or parasites.

What is the biggest predator of ticks? ›

Yes, opossums are one of the top predators for ticks and kill more than 90 percent of the ticks they encounter. Not only are opossums really good at removing ticks, they can also eat up to 5,000 ticks per season.

What kills ticks on dogs instantly? ›

Bleach: Bleach contains powerful chemicals that can instantly kill ticks. Place the tick in a small container that contains bleach. Rubbing alcohol: Rubbing alcohol can kill ticks for good. Once you remove the tick, put it in a cup of alcohol and cover it up with a lid to prevent the tick from escaping.

What is the largest tick in America? ›

The American dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis, is the largest and most widespread tick in the Northeast US, found throughout the United States, southern Canada and parts of Mexico. Like other North American ticks, it prefers moist wooded areas, medium height grasses, and areas near wetlands and woods.

How long does a tick have to be on you to transmit disease? ›

Ticks can attach to any part of the human body but prefer hard-to-see areas such as the groin, armpits, and scalp. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36-48 hours or more before Lyme disease bacteria can be transmitted. Grasp the tick firmly and as close to the skin as possible.

How soon after a tick bite do you need antibiotics? ›

Although not routinely recommended, taking antibiotics within three days after a tick bite may be beneficial for some persons. This would apply to deer tick bites that occured in areas where Lyme disease is common and there is evidence that the tick fed for more than one day.

Do all black legged ticks carry Lyme disease? ›

In order to get Lyme disease, a person must be bitten by a blacklegged tick (also known as deer tick or bear tick) that is infected with the Lyme disease bacteria. On average, about 1 in 3 adult blacklegged ticks and 1 in 5 blacklegged tick nymphs (immature stage) are infected with Lyme disease bacteria.

Can anything other than ticks carry Lyme disease? ›

Causes of Lyme Disease

Immature deer ticks, called nymphs, are the most common vectors for Lyme disease. They are about the size of a pinhead. Nymphs pick up bacteria when they feed on small rodents, such as mice, infected with B burgdorferi. You can get Lyme disease only if you are bitten by an infected tick.

How soon do you need antibiotics after a tick bite? ›

Most cases of Lyme disease can be prevented or cured with prompt antibiotic treatment. If a preventive antibiotic is needed, a single dose of doxycycline will suffice but only if given in the first 72 hours after the tick has attached. To treat active disease, antibiotics are usually given for 2 to 4 weeks.

What happens if you get bit by a lone star tick? ›

Diseases Transmitted by Lone Star Tick Bites

A bite from this tick can cause several other diseases, such as: Bourbon virus: People who contract this virus have symptoms like a fever, rash, body aches, fatigue, headache, nausea, and vomiting. A blood sample will show lower white blood cells and platelets than usual.

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