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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/What type of tick is this?


Seed Tick
Seed Tick  
We were staying at a vacation rental in Southold NY and found a whole slew of tiny, black seed-like items on the bed, on the floors and around the home. When I picked a few up, they began to crawl. After much searching online with little success, we finally took a few to a local vet who said they were 'seed ticks'.

After closer examination, we see that they only have 6 legs, so are in the larva stage (from everything we've read). We understand they are not generally disease carriers, but we are concerned that they traveled with us and our dogs back to our home and want to know what type of tick they are to be sure we are stopping their life-cycle and don't risk having them continue to grow through stages by feeding off our dogs. We can't tell if they are American Dog Ticks, Brown Dog Ticks, Deer Ticks or perhaps some other type we haven't yet identified.

Thank you!

Dear Helen - That indeed appears to be an engorged larval ('seed') tick. I would be very reluctant to attempt an i.d. without being able to put it under a microscope, but given the circumstances under which you found them, I believe that they most likely are brown dog ticks, as this is the only species of hard tick capable of completing its life cycle indoors - see for details. See also for detailed information on the life cycle of deer ticks and for American dog ticks (aka wood ticks). Larval hosts for the latter two species primarily are small mammals (such as mice); occasionally birds whereas larvae of the brown dog tick feed primarily on dogs.  You may wish to have your dogs examined by your regular veterinarian for signs of tick infestation and treatment, if necessary.

Hope this helps,

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Ed Saugstad


Will accept most questions in general entomology, including those related to medical entomology, taxonomy, ecology, arthropod surveillance, and pest management. If you are requesting a 'mystery bug' identification, PLEASE either attach an image to your question, or post an image on a web page (such as Flickr) so that I can look at it, as verbal descriptions frequently are insufficient for a definitive identification.


21 years in the U.S. Army as a medical entomologist; duties varied from surveillance of pest populations (including mosquitoes, cockroaches, ticks, and stored products pests) to conducting research on mosquito-virus ecological relationships and mosquito faunal studies. Ten years as a civilian analyst for the Department of Defense, primarily on distribution of vector-borne diseases worldwide. Limited experience on surveillance of agricultural insects in North Dakota and Indiana.

Entomological Society of America, West Virginia Entomological Society, Society for Vector Ecology, National Speleological Society, West Virginia Association for Cave Studies.

American Journal of Public Health, Contributions of the American Entomological Institute, Japanese Journal of Sanitary Zoology, Journal of Economic Entomology, Mosquito News, and Mosquito Systematics.

B.S. in entomology from North Dakota State University in 1963, M.S. in entomology from Purdue University in 1967.

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