Adult blacklegged ticks (about 1/8 inch long) actively seek hosts from November through March. Females (Figure 1) take blood meals from a variety of hosts.
Males are smaller and a dark plate covers their entire back. Males do not feed but hunt hosts because that is where they will find females for mating.
Blacklegged ticks have been noticeably active in Kentucky since 2011. New detections (Wayne and Lyon counties) indicate that this species probably is present in most Kentucky counties but perhaps at very low levels.
Blacklegged ticks are abundant in the northcentral and northeastern states and are the vector of Lyme disease in those regions (see http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/stats/index.html). They also occur throughout the South where the incidence of Lyme disease is very low. Differences in feeding habits of the tick or some other factor may account for this.
The map (Figure 2) shows counties where blacklegged ticks have been collected. It is important to follow its distribution over the state. Please send or take samples of ticks found during winter to your local Cooperative Extension office for identification.
By Lee Townsend, Extension Entomologist