Difference Between Black Ticks & Red Ticks

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Ticks are a common nuisance, but at times they do more than just suck blood and leave unsightly marks. They can spread disease by the act of biting. Some may wonder about the difference between black and red ticks, but there actually are no exact species known as black or red ticks. However, there is an explanation as to why some insects might be called as such.

A tick rests on a blade of grass.
A tick rests on a blade of grass. (Image: Rolf Aasa/iStock/Getty Images)

Black Tick

The species that may be referred to as a black tick often actually is the black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). While the female has a distinct gradient color pattern on its back, the male is more uniform in its dark coloration, and can be thought of as “black.”

The deer tick.
The deer tick. (Image: ErikKarits/iStock/Getty Images)

Red Tick

Brown dog ticks may be mistaken for being colored red, depending on the color and intensity of light shining on them. The female deer tick may be called red as well, considering the size of the red portion of its body. Sometimes the red bug in question may not be a tick, but is instead a mite. Mites also are eight-legged arachnids with similar body shapes, and also feed on blood.

Two red ticks.
Two red ticks. (Image: Dragisa Savic/iStock/Getty Images)

Life Status

At times, young individuals, or nymphs, can be mistaken as being colored red, when in fact it is an unsaturated reddish brown. This is a result of immaturity, as the exoskeleton’s color will darken over several molting phases. This may be attributed to the absorption of iron from the blood that they consume.

A young tick nymph crawls between two adults.
A young tick nymph crawls between two adults. (Image: Rolf Aasa/iStock/Getty Images)

Engorgement

At times, the coloration of a tick also is affected by whether they have consumed blood, and how recently they have done so. A recently-fed tick will be redder than an unfed tick or a tick that has fed a while ago. As the blood is digested, it will change to a darker color closer to black. Soft-bodied ticks are more likely to show this type of color-changing behavior as compared to hard ticks.

A tick begins to feed.
A tick begins to feed. (Image: Henrik Larsson/iStock/Getty Images)

Better Differentiation

To improve your ability to identify a tick’s actual species, examine features, like patterns on the back, shape and size of the mouth parts, and its size, to determine maturity, among other things. Learning to differentiate among ticks and other similar creatures also is recommended.

Learn to differentiate ticks from other creatures.
Learn to differentiate ticks from other creatures. (Image: defun/iStock/Getty Images)

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