Ticks are a serious problem, as they are known carriers of the disease. There are two primary types of ticks — soft ticks and hard ticks. Learning about the differences will help you quickly identify any ticks that you encounter and better understand the risks that are associated with them.
Soft ticks are a type of arthropod that feeds on blood from the animal and human hosts. There are about 150 species of soft ticks compared to the 650 species of hard ticks in the world. Soft ticks are much larger than hard ticks, making them easier to see and identify, particularly in their adult stage.
Soft ticks are large, measuring about 1/4 inch in length. They are oval-shaped and may appear dark brown, reddish, or tan. They have a leathery appearance to their bodies. The tick’s cuticle expands as it feeds on blood. A soft tick can ingest a blood volume anywhere from five to 10 times its unfed body weight.
The mouthparts of a soft tick are not visible when viewed from above; this is one of the features that distinguish soft ticks from hard ticks. When looking at a hard tick from above, you will be able to see the mouthparts protruding from the head. In the larval stage, soft ticks have just six legs. In the nymphal and adult stages, ticks have eight legs.
Soft ticks typically appear in the western United States. These ticks thrive in hot, dry conditions. They seek out habitats where they can find ample hosts, such as rodent burrows or pigeon roosts. Soft ticks like to feed on mice, rabbits, and birds.
If a cabin or home is infested with rodents, it’s more likely that it will get infested with ticks, too. Soft ticks prefer to seek out only simple dwellings like cabins or sheds. They’re less likely to appear in well-established neighborhoods.
Soft ticks feed only briefly on their hosts before dropping off and retreating. When they’re not feeding, soft ticks will hide in nearby cracks, crevices, and furniture waiting for the next meal.
Ticks actively seek out and feed on hosts in all life stages. They feed about 30 minutes. When necessary soft ticks can survive for over a year without eating. Some species of soft ticks can survive for as many as ten years.