The Most Common Bugs That Look Like Ticks

As the weather warms up, the bugs come out – and some are less welcome than others! Biting bugs are generally disliked everywhere, but few are more reviled than the dreaded tick.

However, not every tick looking bug is a bloodsucker. Poplar weevils, brown marmorated stink bugs, and clover mites are all insects that look like ticks. But how can you tell them apart?

Poplar weevils

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What are they?

Poplar weevils are a type of insect that lives in (and causes extensive damage to) poplar trees. These 6-legged bugs are actually a type of beetle and, though a serious problem for poplars, are completely harmless to humans.

Why are they mistaken for ticks?

These small, black bugs resemble ticks in several ways. They are a similar size, have the same dark color, and even have a similar shape. One crucial difference between the two, however, is that weevils are highly unlikely to bite humans, and are not known to carry or transmit diseases. These beetles may look like ticks, but they’re actually nothing to worry about (unless you’re a poplar).

If you see a large number of them in your backyard, it’s a good idea to capture one for a closer look and to put your mind at rest.

How can you tell a weevil from a tick?

Weevils are nothing to worry about, but how can you be sure they’re not ticks? Fortunately, there are a few key differences to tip you off.

One big giveaway of weevils is their long, snouted noses, a distinctive feature that ticks do not have. Another big giveaway is the number of legs. Weevils are insects and, therefore, always have 6 legs. Ticks are arachnids (which makes them cousins of spiders and scorpions), so they have 8 legs. Most weevils also have long antennae, and ticks do not.

Another big difference is that poplar weevils can fly, whereas ticks lack wings and are totally terrestrial. So, if you see a flying bug that looks like a tick rest assured that, if it’s airborne, it’s not a tick!

Brown marmorated stink bugs

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What are they?

Brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB) are a type of stink bug, insects that get their name from the obnoxious odor they release when squished. These brown, shield-shaped bugs are an invasive species in North America, where they are also major crop pests. These voracious feeders cause extensive damage to fruit and vegetable crops but aren’t known to bite or transmit diseases to humans.

Why are they mistaken for ticks?

BMSB nymphs are very easy to mistake for ticks. This is because, at this young age, they are not only very small, but their bodies also have a more rounded appearance. Without the distinctive shield-shaped back, the BMSB can be tricky to identify, and the youngsters are commonly mistaken for ticks.

BSMB nymphs also have orange-red markings that can mimic the reddish-brown color of certain tick species. Fortunately, they don’t bite and aren’t going to give you Lyme disease, though they may cause havoc in your greenhouse.

How can you tell a brown marmorated stink bug from a tick?

Just like poplar weevils, BSMB are insects, not arachnids. This means they have 6 legs and antennae, whereas ticks have 8 legs and no antennae. Remember; if a tick-like bug has 6 legs, it’s definitely not a tick!

This is especially important to remember when you’re dealing with BSMB nymphs. These small bugs look a lot like ticks so, if you’re unsure, capture one for a closer look! Though BSMB nymphs can’t fly, the adults certainly can, and this is another key difference between stink bugs and ticks. Ticks don’t have wings, so you’ll never see one flying.

Clover mites

Egor Kamelev/Pexels.com

What are they?

Clover mites are the only non-insect on this list, and they’re actually closely related to ticks. These tiny arachnids are common plant pests and are also known to invade houses. They do not bite, transmit diseases, or cause any structural damage, but these tiny bugs can leave a red stain when crushed. For this reason, they can be a nuisance to have around – but how can you tell them apart from ticks?

Why are they mistaken for ticks?

The red stain left behind by a crushed clover bug is often mistaken for blood, which leads many people to believe they’re bloodsuckers. This isn’t true though; the red color is caused by a pigment they produce in their body, and clover mites actually feed on plant sap. Like ticks, clover mites are also arachnids and have eight legs, though these bugs are so small that this can be hard to see.

How can you tell a clover mite from a tick?

If you see a little red bug that looks like a tick, it probably isn’t one. Why? Because there are no known tick species that is as brightly red as the clover mite.

Another key difference is size. Ticks are small, but clover mites are tiny and are hard to see with the naked eye. They are around the size of a pinhead and are most noticeable when they are squashed and the red pigment in their body is released.

Conclusion

Ticks are one of the most sinister summer pests out there, as these biting bugs are well known for transmitting Lyme disease. It’s very sensible to be on your guard against these parasites, but this is often made tricky by the sheer number of lookalikes out there!

Poplar weevils, stink bugs and clover mites are all commonly mistaken for ticks but, fortunately, none of these bugs bite or transmit disease.

Correctly identifying ticks is a key part of preventing bites so, if you see a bug that looks like a tick, get out your magnifying glass for a closer look at its legs, color, and other identifying features.

1 Comments

Jace Perham

Hi, thank you for your website. I couldn’t seem to find what tick like insect I came across until I found your website. At first I was killing them because I thought they were ticks (I only kill blood sucking insects) but noticed after a few that they were too easy to kill and that they were everywhere mainly crawling up my legs. Your web site identifies them as Stink Bug nymphs and it also showed me the difference between them and a tick. So now we’re buddies instead of enemies which they are probably more happy about than I am! Thank you!

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