Hard and soft ticks are two common ticks found throughout the United States. Hard ticks are more commonly encountered by animals and people than soft ticks. Hard ticks have flattened bodies shaped like a teardrop and possess a shield-like scutum. They are between 1/16 and 3/8 inches in length and are brown to reddish-brown to black in color. Their mouthparts can be seen from a dorsal view. Soft ticks are leathery in appearance and are oval in shape. They are grey to sandy-brown to reddish-brown in color. They are about 1/4 inch in length. They do not possess a shield-like scutum and their mouthparts cannot be seen from a dorsal view.
Life Cycle - Most ticks have four life stages: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph and adult and undergo one to four life cycles: one-host, two-host, three-host or four-host. Hard ticks require one to three hosts to complete their life cycle. Unlike the hard ticks, soft ticks have two or more nymphal stages and all require multiple hosts to complete their life cycle.