5 Ticks In Pennsylvania (Common Diseases)

There are a few common tick species found across Pennsylvania. These common pests are also some of the biggest transmitters of common diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease. While they will use people as hosts, they are also frequently found on dogs, deer, horses, and cattle. 

Ticks In Pennsylvania 

1. American Dog Tick

American Dog Tick
American Dog Tick | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Dermacentor variabilis
  • Color: brown
  • Diseases: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Common hosts: dogs, mice, raccoons, people

The American Dog Tick enjoys wooded areas and shrubbery and is often found in farmlands. Throughout its life cycle, this tick will feed on different types of animals. The larvae are found on small mammals, including voles and field mice, while nymphs like to feed on the slightly larger raccoons and opossums. 

By the time American Dog Ticks are adults, they start attacking people, dogs, and larger mammals. These insects are mainly active in the fall, summer, and spring seasons. While this type of tick does not spread Lyme Disease, they do spread Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. 

2. Groundhog Tick

  • Scientific name: Ixodes cookie
  • Color: light brown, tan
  • Diseases: Powassan virus
  • Common hosts: groundhogs, people, small birds 

The Groundhog stick is often referred to as the Woodchuck Tick, and it is one of the most common ticks found in Pennsylvania. These insects like to feed on groundhogs, which makes it rare for them to be infected with Lyme Disease. Instead, Groundhog Ticks are known for spreading the Powassan virus. 

This type of tick may also attach to small birds and people. They are a light brown color with a rounded body. These ticks were more common in Pennsylvania before the 1990s. Today, they are outnumbered by American Dog Ticks and Black-legged ticks. 

3. Lone Star Tick

Lone Star Tick
Lone Star Tick | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0
  • Scientific name: Amblyomma americanum
  • Color: brown round body 
  • Diseases: alpha-gal allergy, Southern Tick Associated Rash
  • Common hosts: coyotes, dogs, people, deer

The Lone Star Tick is one of the most common tick species found in Pennsylvania. They are active in both the spring and summer seasons, while larvae are active during the fall months. Larvae are typically found in large numbers, as well. This insect causes Southern Tick Associated Rash Infection, which looks similar to Lyme Disease, another tick-spread illness. 

Lone Star Ticks will attack people and large animals, such as dogs, deer, and coyotes. In addition to Southern Tick Associated Rash Infection, bites from this tick have also been linked to causing a meat allergy, and alpha-gal allergy. 

4. Black-legged Tick

Black legged Tick
Image by Erik Karits from Pixabay
  • Scientific name: Ixodes scapularis
  • Color: brown and tan 
  • Diseases: Lyme Disease
  • Common hosts: dogs, deer, lizards

The Black-Legged Tick is common throughout Pennsylvania for most of the year, including the winter season. Black-legged Ticks are one of the main transmitters of Lyme Disease. They feed on large mammals like deer and dogs, lizards, and other types of animals depending on their stage in life. Adults will feed on large mammals, while nymphs and larvae will feed on small mammals and reptiles. 

These insects are active in the state throughout each season as long as temperatures stay above freezing. Nymphs are more active in the summertime. 

5. Asian longhorned tick

Asian Longhorned Tick
Asian Longhorned Tick | image by pintail via iNaturalist | CC BY 4.0
  • Scientific name: Haemaphysalis longicornis
  • Color: light brown
  • Diseases: Powassan virus
  • Common hosts: horses, birds, deer 

The Asian Longhorned Tick is a less common Pennsylvania tick, but it does not spread diseases as commonly as other ticks found in the state. However, they have been known to transmit the Powassan virus. The hosts that this tick chooses will vary based on its stage in life, from small to large mammals. 

Nymphs may be found on birds while adults could be found on deer, sheep, and horses. Only a few have been recorded in Pennsylvania, but the Asian Longhorned Tick is an invasive species expected to spread quickly. These ticks have a light brown to tan coloring. 

Common Tick Transmitted Diseases 

The ticks found in Pennsylvania can spread a number of diseases by attaching to both humans and animals. 

1. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever 

Ticks that spread this: American dog tick, Lone Star Ticks

Symptoms: chills, fever, rash, headache 

One of the most common tick-transmitted diseases as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. This is often spread by American dog ticks because they transfer the illness from an infected animal to whatever human that they attach to. However, they must be attached for at least six hours to transmit the disease. 

Wild animals can carry this illness, and so can pets. If a person is infected they should seek treatment immediately. Symptoms usually start 2 to 14 days from being bitten by the tick. Some symptoms include a rash, chills, aches, nausea, pain, headaches, and fever. 

2. Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease rash
Lyme Disease rash | image by Chris Booth via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Ticks that spread this: Lone Star Tick, Black-legged tick

Symptoms: rash, pain, memory loss, mood swings 

Lyme Disease is a serious disease that is spread by various different types of ticks. It appears in three different stages, and each will have different symptoms.

It is most commonly spread by black-legged ticks and the lone-star tick. This happens in wild animals, in addition to people, and can cause long-term symptoms. People, horses, and dogs are the most likely to get this illness. 

An uncomfortable rash is usually the first sign before it progresses into other symptoms such as pain, fatigue, neurological complications, mood changes, and memory loss. The exact symptoms and their severity will vary based on the stage of Lyme Disease that someone is in. 

3. Tularemia

Ticks that spread this: Lone Star Tick, American Dog Tick, Rabbit Tick

Symptoms: chills, swollen lymph nodes, fever

Tularemia is frequently referred to as rabbit fever, and it can be spread by a number of the common ticks found in Pennsylvania. Rabbit ticks, American dog ticks, Lone star ticks, and Rocky Mountain wood ticks can all transmit this disease. 

Tick bites that lead to Tularemia will develop an ulcer at the bite site. Other symptoms include fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, and loss of appetite. Treatment of this disease can greatly decrease the chance of fatality. 

Conclusion

The common ticks you can come across in Pennsylvania are also common carriers of multiple serious diseases. The best way to prevent contracting these is by doing frequent checks to make sure you are free of ticks. Most of the time they have to be attached for at least a few hours to spread the disease.