The American Dog Tick is the largest of the eastern wood ticks, and the one you are most likely to see. Ticks are arachnids and, like their spider cousins, have eight legs.
The American Dog Tick is reddish-brown with white or yellow markings. The male tick is about 1/8 inch long, and the female is slightly larger. She will get much bigger (about 1/2 inch), though, after she drinks her fill of blood.
Ticks are parasites, and they must find a mammal host for blood. They use their claws to grab onto a host and then dig under the skin with their mouthparts. Their mouth lets out a chemical, which is an anesthesia, to keep the host from knowing it’s there. The tick can then bury its head in the host’s flesh and drink as much blood as it wants.
The larva will detect a trail or place where mammals often go by smell and body heat. It waits with its front claws outstretched to grab the first small mammal that comes by. This is usually a mouse, vole, squirrel, chipmunk, mole, shrew, muskrat, or rabbit.
Next the larva molts (sheds its skin) and become an eight-legged nymph. The nymph will look for a new host. It may be another small mammal, or something bigger like a opossum or raccoon.
Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
Use repellents that contain 20 to 30% DEET on exposed skin and clothing for protection that lasts up to several hours.
Keep lawns mowed low to prevent tick populations.
Keep pets on flea and tick medications to prevent infestation indoors.