There are several reasons as to why no one would want to be around ticks. They pose real threats because they suck on the blood of animals, including humans. This is quite a concern because they are everywhere, and we do not know what microorganisms they carry. There are 800 types of ticks all over the world and some of them look like bugs.
While bugs could also offer discomfort, they are not as deadly as ticks. So, for you to determine which is which, here are the bugs that look like ticks but are not.
In this article:
- What are ticks?
- Facts about ticks
- What are the most common ticks and their identification?
- 18 Bugs that look like ticks
- FAQs on Bugs That Look Like Ticks
- How do you tell if a bug is a tick?
- How do you tell if you have a tick in your skin?
- What does an embedded tick look like?
- Do all ticks carry Lyme disease?
- Where do ticks thrive?
- How long can ticks survive without food?
- In what season do ticks come out?
- Can you tell how long a tick has been attached to the skin?
- When should I worry about a tick bite?
- Are there home remedies to tick bites?
- What can I do to control tick infestation?
What are ticks?
Ticks are very small creatures that niche on leaf piles and in the ground. They are native in north and midwest America, Canada, and across Europe. They survive all year, but their most active seasons would be during summer and spring. During winter and fall, they look for warmer places to niche in so your house could be a prime choice.
These creatures, however, are notorious as potent carriers of Lyme disease. While they are hard to spot, you can identify them with their eight legs, tube-shaped mouth with two hooks at the end. They attach themselves on a host, unnoticeably, and feed on their blood.
Facts about ticks
We already know how dangerous ticks can be but to put other things on top of that, here are other facts about ticks that you should know about:
- There are more or less than 850 species of ticks scattered around the world.
- Ticks are related to scorpions and spiders. As such, they are arachnids and not insects.
- Among the diseases they infect humans and animals would be Lyme disease, anaplasma, ehrlichia, and spotted fever.
- Cats are rarely attacked by ticks because they clean themselves.
- Humans and animals that are bitten by ticks can contract multiple diseases at a single bite.
- Never remove a tick using your bare hands. They should be eliminated from the skin using tweezers and in a gentle manner.
- Male ticks die after mating and female ticks can lay between 2000-18000 eggs in a single laying.
- Ticks attach themselves to hosts by dropping to them from a branch or through clasping themselves on hosts.
- Ticks feed on hosts for a long time. Usually, feeding time ranges from 24-48 hours.
- Part of the tick is left on the skin even after removal.
What are the most common ticks and their identification?
To spot a tick, here are some characteristics that you should know of.
- Size: ticks usually range from 5mm-15mm in length.
- Color: they can range from light to dark brown or brownish red.
- Shape: they have large abdomens and very small heads
- Legs: as part of the arachnid family, they have four inward legs and four outward legs
- Antennae and wings: both not present
Drawing from the mentioned characteristics, the following would be the most common ticks out there:
- American dog tick: They are unique for their curled legs and their grey markings over their reddish-brown body. They are generally found on the east coast of the US.
- Black-legged deer tick: They have an identifiable orange-brown body. They feed on livestock, coyotes, squirrels, and other mammals. They are notorious carriers of Lyme disease.
- Brown dog tick: This one is dark brown in color with a grey-blue patterned abdomen and curled legs. It is found across the US.
- Groundhog tick: They also have curled legs and are usually blond in color. They are the carriers of Powassan disease.
- Lonestar tick: They have grey abdomens and an overall light brown body. They also have a horseshoe shaped pattern in the center of their abdomens, colored white or silver. It is native to Maine and Texas, the Lonestar state, hence, the name.
- Pacific coast tick: This one has a mottled brown color prevalent in California up to Oregon. It is the common vector for spotted fever and a virus called Tularemia.
- Soft ticks: These ones are found in elevated woodlands where rodent infestation is prevalent. There have also been soft tick outbreaks along Arizona, Colorado, and California. It is the carrier of tick-borne relapsing fever.
- Rocky mountain wood tick: They have a red and dark brown body with a gray or white area just below the head. They have slightly bent legs and as the name suggests, they are found in the Rocky mountain states composed of Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Colorado, California, Wyoming, Oregon, and Washington.
18 Bugs that look like ticks
There are various bugs that look like ticks and if you want to control health threats and possible infestation, you should know which bugs look like ticks. Just a word of caution though, while these are bugs and not ticks, it does not mean that all of them are harmless.
- 5 Bugs That Look Like Termites But Aren’t
- 10 Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs But Aren’t
- 12 Bugs That Look Like Cockroaches (But Aren’t)
- 12 Bugs That Look Like Fleas And Jump
1. Ash Plant Bug
This one gets its name for feeding on tree saps, specifically that of ash trees. They are pesky amongst lines of ash trees because they dry the sap causing wilting and tree death.
They are very tiny and are more comparable to deer ticks than the true ticks that feed on humans. They are confused with ticks because of their rounded body and black color. The only way to differentiate this from ticks is their six legs.
2. Bat Bug
These ones are most likely found in attics and they get their name from their bat-like tendencies. In the wild, they live in caves and literally feed on bats. Like ticks, bat bugs also have tube-like mouths. But with all things considered, they are more similar to bed bugs than ticks, but with smaller size and with hairier thorax.
3. Bed Bug
They are the most comparable bugs to ticks because they, too, feed on their hosts’ blood. They might not be as deadly as ticks, but their bites are extremely itchy. Bed bugs are most active during dawn and can also attack at night when they have found a niche under your bed. They are reddish-brown in color, oval and flat and grow to 0.25-inches in length.
4. Booklice bug
They are also known as Psocids as their name implies, they live on old books. Unlike ticks, they feed on book cellulose instead of human blood. They could, however, be of health risk when they find their way in your home library as they also feed on algae, fungus, and decaying matter.
They usually have a light, almost creamy brown color that darkens whenever they consume binding glues from books.
5. Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs
You would typically find clusters of eggs of the brown marmorated stink bugs on leaves’ undersides in forests and woodlands. The eggs are greenish, ovate but flat and are at 0.5mm.
Compared to ticks, stink bugs only have six legs and do not have antennae. Stink bug nymphs on the other hand have reddish-brown legs, a yellow green body, and white striped antennae.
6. Carpet beetles
This one is a very common household pest and unlike ticks, they would rarely be found outside. As the term implies, they take their niche in walls and carpets. They feed on carpet fibers, wooly textiles, and other fibrous household items.
They become most active during warm temperatures. When you find small white spots across your carpet or textiles, they are most likely carpet beetles.
This one is also called as harvest mite or red bugs, but they are not true mites and are more related to scorpions, spiders, and ticks. They are distinguishable for their red color and a semi-transparent body. Compared to ticks, they only have six legs and they are not harmful to humans.
8. Clover Mites
They are common garden pests infesting your lawn or yard all summer long. As the name suggests, they are endemic where clovers thrive; in dry, hot climates. They have legs that look like antennae, soft bodied small creatures, and sometimes come with a bright red color. They might not attack humans but they can sure be dangerous to gardens.
9. Cockroach nymph
These cockroach babies are also called brown banded cockroaches because of their light brown color and white bands. They are found mostly in floorboards, in walls, and underneath beds.
They strike an uncanny resemblance with ticks when they are newly hatched with their light brown, transparent body that darkens into reddish-brown as they mature.
10. Deer bloodsucker
This is a lookalike to many insects including fleas, ticks, and flies. It is a hardy bug with its firm claws, fleshy legs, and powerful body. It lives in woodlands, niching on shrubs and trees. Its most distinguishable features would be its three pairs of limbs and almost translucent wings.
Its most common victims are elks, deer, cattle, and other animals. When their location comes short of animals, they could enter homes and suck on people’s blood. Like ticks, they could also carry Lyme disease and other illnesses.
11. Drugstore beetles
These bugs are real menace in the home especially in pantries and kitchens. While they could survive for several weeks without food, they become a mess once they find where the cereals, grains, and flour are stored. Aside from this, they are also attracted to light.
Their oval shaped bodies make them look like ticks. They usually have wings but cannot fly and they have brown, hard outer shells.
12. Harlequin Cabbage Bug
Their nymphs are the only comparable creatures to ticks because of their dark brown and reddish color. At maturity, they have hard forewings and a colorful body (white, orange, and black).
They have six legs not eight like ticks and because they belong to the stink bug family, they have stink legs at their legs’ base. Other identifying characteristics of this cabbage bug would be their snouted legs, red and black eyes, and antennae that are relatively shorter than its body.
13. Head Lice
Because they feed on humans too, they are comparable to ticks. They are mostly found in human hairs, hence the name, but could also niche on birds’ feathers. They are wingless, very tiny with a semi-transparent body and six legs.
Unlike ticks, they only have six legs and does not carry life-threatening diseases like Lyme disease. But they make the head itchy though, causing displeasure especially during warm temperatures.
14. Poplar Weevils
Once you find scattered holes in your poplar trees, you are already looking at poplar weevil infestation in your yard. This bug is identifiable for its metallic green body, snouted nose, and reddish-brown wings growing at 0.25 inches long.
They are real pests for trees as it weakens the branches and could lead to tree death. Compared to ticks, they can fly, and they never bite humans nor feed on their blood.
15. Spider beetles
These bugs feed on tree saps and not on human blood. They are outdoor bugs found in grass turfs. They are easily identifiable for their long, slender bodies, growing to 0.5-inches.
They are named as such because they have dark legs and thoraxes that look like spiders. Aside from this, they are also distinguishable for their brown heads and oval shaped bodies.
16. Skin beetles
These bugs are voracious eaters. They munch on almost everything including jackets, textiles, wood, boxes, books, everything. It is identifiable for its black head and brown body. They are comparable to ticks because they are very tiny, and they can also pose health risks for humans because of their undiscriminating diet.
They might not bite on humans nor feed on their blood but sometimes they mistakenly take a munch on the skin. When this happens, they leave red and itchy blisters on the skin.
17. Swallow bug
This bug is native to the warmer climates of southern USA and central America. They are the most tick-looking bugs in this list, considered as almost identical to mature ticks. Like ticks, they also bite humans but feeding on human blood is not established.
They breed inside homes during summer and can survive weeks without food. Unlike ticks, they are flatter in shape and with a grayish brown color compared to tick’s reddish-brown color.
Ticks and spiders are both arachnids, but they are highly distinguishable from one another. Spiders have four pairs of limbs, an unstretched exoskeleton and a convex body. They hate light and they usually prey on insects as well as small animals by trapping them in a sticky web.
They are most active during the summer, but they can be spotted when they crawl on the skin unlike ticks. They rarely bite on humans but if they do, spider bites can be itchy and swollen.
Related: Top 7 Plants That Repel Spiders
FAQs on Bugs That Look Like Ticks
How do you tell if a bug is a tick?
The most common indicator is the number of legs. Bugs usually have six while ticks have eight. Bugs can also be easier to spot compared to ticks because they are larger in size. Most of all, ticks cannot fly or jump but bugs can. They also do not have wings.
How do you tell if you have a tick in your skin?
Unfortunately, their bites are not itchy nor painful. Because they are too small and cannot be detected by the naked eye, they could be attached to your skin for days without even knowing it. But when they finally release their grip, you would soon find red welts on the bitten part.
What does an embedded tick look like?
This is what makes ticks extra dangerous. When they become embedded in the skin, they look like a bumpy or raised mole or a black skin tag. As such, it could be hard to distinguish an embedded tick from a normal skin bump. So to assess, you have to look closer down the skin and spot for the eight legs and oval shaped body of the tick.
Do all ticks carry Lyme disease?
Not all but most often than not, they would at one point in their life cycle. Ticks feed on a variety of hosts in their entire life cycle. This means that they could pick up a lot of diseases along the way, not just Lyme disease. The downside is that, once they have been infected with one disease, they would be more vulnerable to be carriers of various diseases.
Where do ticks thrive?
While they usually prefer habitats that are moist and with much vegetation, they generally do require specific habitats. As such, they live in the following areas:
- Tall brushes
- Fallen branches
- Litter and leaf piles
- Walls, floorboards, and fences
- Pet kennels
- Dirty laundry
How long can ticks survive without food?
The larvae as well as nymphs of ticks can go on for two weeks without food while adult ticks could live for more than two years without host.
In what season do ticks come out?
Tick season is basically during summer or when climates are warm. They usually come out to find food after the dormant seasons which are during winter and fall. In the US, the beginning of the tick season is in between March and April.
Can you tell how long a tick has been attached to the skin?
There are no signs to know this but according to experts, it only takes 15 mins for ticks to transmit diseases to the human skin. And as we have said, one bite from the tick can transmit more than one disease.
When should I worry about a tick bite?
Because tick bites are dangerous, you should consult a doctor when you see one of the following symptoms:
- Skin swelling (usually warm, painful, and with oozing pus)
- Stiff neck and back
- Muscle and joint pains
Are there home remedies to tick bites?
Once you suspect a tick bite, flush your skin with rubbing alcohol or the classic, amber colored Listerine. This is useful for both dogs, humans, and other animals who have been bitten by ticks.
What can I do to control tick infestation?
Here are some simple remedies that you can do to control tick infestation in your home especially during summers.
- Apply permethrin in clothes, socks, and beddings: permethrin kills ticks in its entire life cycle. This tick repellant is usually found on antimalarial products like bed nets. Buying permethrin treated clothes, socks and beddings are also good measures in keeping yourself safe from tick bites.
- Sanitize: Make sure that everything is sanitized most especially after hiking or camps. A part of sanitizing is also taking a shower after a trip outdoors and inspecting blisters or swelling of the skin. Also spot black skin tags or bumps if there are any as they could be the indicators of a tick bite.
- Keep warm: Ticks cannot survive 80% humidity for a long period. When they lose moisture, they die.
- Re-arrange landscape: Now that you know where they thrive outdoors, you might want to rearrange the shrubs and plants where they niche on.
- Groom the dog: Of all pets, dogs harbor ticks the most. Grooming your dog and giving them baths regularly are some of the ways which can eliminate ticks.
- Clothing: To ensure that they do not attach to your clothes, always cover up lightly. Also, use quick dry clothing when you are hiking or if you are outdoors. This way, they can be shaken up easily and they could also be easily spotted.
To conclude, ticks are extra dangerous not only because they are vectors of various diseases but also because it has a lot of lookalikes, making it harder to spot when it has already attached to a host. Other than this, it does not only niche in specific habitats unlike other pests and insects so there is no way for you to know how to permanently discard them at home.
To at least alleviate tick infestation, you have to know which ones are ticks and which ones are bugs. This is the reason why you need to have a basic knowledge of the most common ticks out there and the most common bugs that are often mistaken for ticks.