Identify 6 Ticks in Virginia (Important Info)

The Virginia woodlands and grasslands are home to a wide variety of wildlife. While ticks are extremely small and easy to miss, they have the potential to be quite dangerous if bitten. Like most U.S. states, Virginia has a large population of ticks that can spread unwanted diseases among humans and animals alike.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the most common ticks living in Virginia. Including where they are found, what they look like, how to avoid them, and which diseases each one of them may spread.

6 of the most common ticks in Virginia

1. Black-legged tick

Black legged Tick
Image by Erik Karits from Pixabay

Scientific name: Ixodes scapularis
Distribution: east of the Rocky Mountains
Diseases: Lyme Disease

The Black-legged Tick is also known as the “deer tick” due to its preferred host of a white-tailed deer. Adults are generally 5mm in size unengorged and are among the smallest ticks that you have to worry about in Virginia, and the rest of the country.

Males are dark brown to black in color and do not spread Lyme disease. Females have the same coloring as males with an orange to red coloring and will spread Lyme disease.

2. Lonestar tick

lonestar tick | image by Anthony Zukoff via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Amblyomma Americanum
Distribution: Texas east to the coast and part of New England, mostly south of the Great Lakes
Diseases: Tularemia, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever

The Lonestar tick gets its name from its unique coloring. Females have a brown shell with a large white dot in the middle. The ticks are most active from late spring to early fall.

The ticks are known to be extremely aggressive, attaching to anything that comes in their path. They are able to survive without a host for up to a full year.

3. American dog tick

American Dog Tick
American dog tick male | image by K-State Research and Extension via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Dermacentor variabilis
Distribution: east of the Rocky Mountains, California
Diseases: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

The American Dog Tick gets its name due to its preference for feeding on domesticated dogs. However, it can also attach and feed on people as well. They are probably the largest ticks in Virginia.

The ticks are brown with white or gray markings. They have an oval-shaped body and are 5mm unengorged and 15mm engorged. The ticks are most active from May to November.

4. Asian longhorn tick

Asian longhorned ticks
Asian longhorned tick | credit cdc.gov

Scientific name: Haemaphysalis longicornis
Distribution: Many eastern U.S. states
Diseases: unknown

Asian longhorn ticks are not native to the western hemisphere, but there are more and more reports of them in the United States. They have been reported in the following states: Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

They aren’t as attracted to human skin as some of the others on this list, but they can bite and they do spread diseases so they’re worth mentioning. In addition to humans, they also bite pets and livestock and can be found in the typical tick sanctuaries like wooded areas and grasslands. Female longhorn ticks can lay eggs and produce young without males.

5. Gulf coast tick

gulf coast tick
Gulf Coast Tick | image by Christina Butler via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Amblyomma maculatum
Distribution: Texas and states bordering the Gulf Coast, other nearby states, north along the east coast into Virginia
Diseases: Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis

The Gulf Coast tick is common throughout southern states in the U.S. that border the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico. They can be found as far north as Colorado, Tennessee, or even New Jersey.

These ticks feed primarily on birds and mammals but will commonly bite humans when given the chance. They’re known for spreading a type of spotted fever, Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis, among other pathogens.

6. Brown dog tick

brown dog tick | image by gailhampshire via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Rhipicephalus sanguineus Latreille
Distribution: contiguous United States
Diseases: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Brown dog ticks get their name from their brownish color and their preference for dogs. They can attach to humans but rarely do so. Brown dog ticks are about 3mm in size when un-engorged and 12mm when engorged. They take on a gray-blue color when engorged.

Brown dog ticks are one of the few species of ticks that can survive inside. That is why they can be dangerous when brought into a breeding facility or a home with multiple pets.


Tick safety in Virginia

While tick bites can be uncomfortable and a little unnerving, the bite itself is not the main concern. Ticks are known vectors of several diseases that can be harmful to both humans and animals alike.

One of the most common diseases passed from tick to human is Lyme disease. If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause joint pain and even negatively impact your central nervous system. Whether in Virginia or any other state, it’s essential to be on the lookout for the different types of ticks and always see a doctor if experiencing symptoms after a tick bite.

Additional tick info

Now that you are aware of the most common ticks living in Virginia, it’s vital to understand how to avoid getting bit. Here are some common tips to follow to avoid getting bitten by ticks:

  • Wear long pants and tuck them into your socks.
  • Wear bug spray with less than 30% DEET.
  • Pre-treat clothing with a chemical repellant like permethrin
  • Stay towards the center of trails
  • Avoid tick-infested areas (i.e., high grass, off-trail trekking, etc.)

In addition to following the common practices above, you should also check yourself and your animals for ticks anytime you go to a place that may have been infested by ticks. Make sure to check the following areas on your own body:

  • Pubic area
  • Armpits
  • Neckline
  • Hair
  • Back of knees

Additionally, you should check your animals’ armpits and behind their ears very carefully. Finally, you should shower within two hours of coming indoors as this will help wash away any unattached ticks.