Black Legged Tick

The deer tick, also called the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis), is a parasite that is found in wooded, brushy areas. It has a lifespan of two to three years during which it goes through three stages of development. The deer tick is a carrier of several harmful diseases, including Lyme disease, which can be passed on to humans. The appearance of the deer tick depends on its stage of life. While it may not be abundant in the Kansas City area, it is present in increasing numbers


Adult females are about 3/16ths of an inch wide and slightly larger than males. After molting a second time, females will develop a red or orange color on the anterior of the body. Males are typically darker. The legs of both sexes are blackish in color. The larvae will appear to be about the size of a period at the end of a sentence. The larvae will not move on to the next stage until they have their first meal of blood from a host animal. Once a larva feeds, it will molt and become a nymph. The nymph is only slightly larger than the larva. It is only about the size of a poppy seed, and looks like a "speck of dirt or freckle".


Most people refer to this species as the deer tick, as they are culprits in spreading Lyme and other infectious diseases. In truth, the white footed mouse is the primary carrier, infecting immature ticks with the bacterium. In the next life stage, the same tick may attach to a deer host, infecting the deer as well. The black legged tick is also the transmitter of a disease call tick paralysis. There is no pathogen involved and the causal agent is believed to be a neurotoxin. This same tick also harbors a spotted fever type of rickettsia as well as the causal agent of tularemia. At this time, however, Lyme disease is of the primary concern. Lyme disease is now the most frequently reported tick-borne disease in the United States.