Blacklegged Ticks (Ixodes scapularis)
Blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) are winter pests of larger animals such as cattle and white-tailed deer. As adults, males and females blood feed and mate on their host and use their host for dispersal. Engorged females detach from their host to lay a large clutch of eggs (~2000). The six-legged larvae then hatch and feed on small rodents and reptiles and then molt into eight-legged nymphs. As nymphs they blood feed on a variety of hosts including rodents, reptiles, medium sized mammals (e.g., canines), and humans. Then the engorged nymph detaches from the host and molts into the reproductive adult which are typically found on larger mammals (e.g., humans, deer, and cattle). This time period typically takes 2-3 years depending on host availability and habitat suitability. The genetics and genomics of this species complex makes it interesting as their behaviors are tightly linked to their genetics and their ability to transmit pathogens. These ticks can transmit a variety of pathogens to humans, canines, and ungulates including Powassan virus, Borrelia burgdorferi causing Lyme disease, Anaplasma causing Anaplasmosis, and Babesia causing Babesiosis. Understanding their biology is key to management and control; thus, ticks are often managed through habitat management (e.g., preventing the tick from finding the next host or molting to the next stage) and on-host treatments (e.g., repellents and permethrin-based acaricides).