Iowa Insect Information Notes

American Dog Tick

American Dog Tick

Female American Dog Tick

Above: female American dog tick. More tick pictures in the Image Gallery!


The American dog tick is the most common tick found in Iowa. Like all ticks, the American dog tick goes through an egg, larva, nymph, and adult stage during its development. While they may be found throughout the year, adults are most active during late April through May. The larva, nymph, and adult stages must each have a blood meal before they can develop to the next stage. The American dog tick has a fairly wide host range. Adults commonly infest both large and medium sized mammals such as dogs, cattle, deer, raccoons, and opossum. The immature stages may feed on these same hosts but prefer to infest smaller mammals such as meadow mice, squirrels, and chipmunks. All stages of the American dog tick will also feed on humans if given the opportunity.

Although they are abundant, the American dog tick is not considered to be a serious human health threat in Iowa. Specifically, they do not transmit Lyme disease. (For information on deer ticks and Lyme disease in Iowa, see the ISU Lyme Disease/Deer Tick Survey Page. Although dog ticks do not carry Lyme disease, they are the main carrier of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in the midwest states. Fortunately, this disease is relatively rare in Iowa.

Control of American dog ticks in outdoor areas is extremely difficult. While several insecticides are labeled for outdoor tick control, they are usually not effective in eliminating large numbers of ticks in brushy, heavily wooded areas. There are, however, some management techniques that can discourage a buildup of ticks in these areas. Habitat modification is considered to be the most permanent approach to tick management. Since ticks must be in areas of high humidity in order to survive, they are most commonly found in grassy, brushy, wooded, and shaded areas. Therefore, reducing the humidity in these areas by keeping grass well-clipped, removing brush, and pruning trees to allow more sunlight to penetrate to the soil surface will discourage ticks from becoming established in these areas. The best approach when working or recreating in tick infested areas is to use personal protection in the form of repellents, wear protective clothing, and carefully inspect for and promptly and safely remove any attached ticks. 

For more information about ticks in Iowa, please see ISU Extension publication # PM2036, Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases in Iowa at

Updated 08/07/2009 - 9:29am