Also known as the “deer tick,” the black-legged tick is the most common species that affects small animals in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, according to Dr. Matthew Frye, extension educator for the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program at Cornell University.
“This tick is found in shrubs and in the woods, and it quests for its hosts, which means it stands on vegetation or on a leaf with its legs up and out, and when an animal walks by, it attaches,” Frye says.
Frye notes that it only quests at about one-and-a-half feet above the ground or lower, which means humans are usually only affected below the thigh, but dogs and cats can get them all over.
Black-legged ticks, unlike most other species, can carry Lyme disease. If you spot one, it’s important to take action right away. “In the case of Lyme disease, ticks don't begin to inject the causative pathogen until they've been attached to the host for 24 to 48 hours,” Nolan says. “If deer ticks can be removed early, one stands a good chance of ‘interrupting’ transmission of the Lyme disease agent.”
What are some of this tick’s defining characteristics? As you might expect from the name, it has black legs. The body may be red or brown and is relatively small—often about the size of a sesame seed unless the tick has recently fed.