Identifying the stage and species of a tick is crucial to deciding whether to seek medical attention or not, because tick-borne diseases are only carried by certain ticks in specific regions.
If you enroll in our TickApp research tool, we include an easy way to photograph and submit a picture of your tick for identification under the "Report a Tick" function.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services also provides identification services to the public. With this service you are able to submit an image of the tick or you may send in the tick. We recommend that you keep the tick until hearing from the laboratory about the identification in case we need more images or have further questions.
If you'd like to submit a photo or mail a specimen, you can use the following link: https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/6834973/Tick-Identification
Want to try to identify the tick yourself?
In the Midwest, the most common ticks on people and pets are the deer tick (also called the blacklegged tick), the wood tick (also called the American dog tick) and the lone star tick. Here we provide some images to help you decide which one you have. Most people notice and find adult ticks but be alert for tiny ticks as well. These might be nymphal deer ticks or larval/nymphal lone star ticks. We recently asked people to point out the ticks in a group of bugs and found that only about 50% recognized the nymphal deer ticks. You can refresh your memory as to size and features using the pictures here and at the Tick Encounter Resource website.
Deer ticks (blacklegged ticks): Top row: nymph and larva. Bottom row: Adult female and adult male. Most people notice and find adult ticks but be alert for tiny nymphal ticks as well. The deer ticks (blacklegged ticks) are reddish to dark brown in appearance without white markings.
Wood ticks (American dog ticks): The bottom row depicts adult wood ticks (American dog ticks) compared with adult deer ticks (top row). Wood ticks have the whitish markings on the body and are generally larger than the deer ticks.
Lone star ticks: They are not common in Wisconsin but are abundant in Southern Illinois. The female has the white spot on the back. The other tick is a male and has small white markings near the rear. They are also rounder in shape than the deer tick and the wood tick.
Ticks Submitted to the Wisconsin Medical Entomology Laboratory
This pie chart shows the tick image submissions to the Wisconsin Medical Entomology Laboratory (WMEL) from the years 2018-2020. There were 998 specimens submitted for identification and the breakdown is as follows: 463 (46%) wood ticks (also called the American dog tick), 318 (32%) deer ticks (also called the blacklegged tick), 47 (5%) lone star ticks, and 170 (17%) others including non-ticks and uncommon species. As you can see, most deer ticks that are submitted are adults and few nymphs are submitted. This is a problem because it suggests people aren’t finding nymphs. Nymphs are important in the transmission of Lyme disease to humans because they are so small and hard to find, but they are still able to transmit pathogens that can cause disease.