The Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease is currently working on several innovative and exciting research projects related to tick biology and control. Please read below about several of our research initiatives, as well as general information about ticks in the Midwest.

The Tick App

Learn how you can prevent tick bites and help researchers better understand ticks and the disease they carry by downloading the app today!

The Tick App is a free smartphone app that allows people living in high-risk areas for Lyme disease to report ticks, learn about tick bite prevention, and help researchers better understand ticks and the diseases they carry. 

The app was developed by researchers at Columbia University, the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and two Regional Centers for Excellence in Vector-Borne Disease, both funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Lyme disease can be transmitted to humans after a tick bite, and this study is designed to help researchers understand more about how  people’s practices and activities impact their exposure to ticks. This research is being done because Lyme disease is the most common  disease transmitted by ticks in the United States. The information provided will help researchers design better control strategies to prevent people from getting diseases transmitted by ticks.

If you live in a high-risk area, signing up for the app and sharing your experience and perspective will help researchers learn about the risk factors for tick borne disease and design better methods that prevent tick bites and tick-borne disease. To get more information or participate, go to thetickapp.org or download the app on iTunes or GooglePlay.

Tick Identification Service @ UW-Madison

Have you been bitten by a tick? Whether or not you need to worry about the possibility of getting sick depends on the type of tick it is-- and we can help you figure that out!

As of May 2018, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is pleased to be able to offer fast and simple tick identifications and followup recommendations, based on photographs and your geographical location. We accept submissions from residents throughout the Midwest (in Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin).

To submit a tick for identification, please complete a short questionnaire online. We will ask you to answer a few brief questions about when you found the tick, what you were doing when you were bit, and where you think the tick came from. We will also ask you to send us a clear photo of the tick.

We don’t provide testing services, but if you are interested in having a tick tested for disease, we can refer you to a laboratory.

I-TICK Program

University of Illinois leads an innovative tick surveillance network of organizations and citizens across the state

The I-TICK program engages citizens across the state of Illinois to collect ticks and send them to the University of Illinois for species identification and disease testing. Several organizations throughout Illinois, such as local health departments, mosquito abatement districts, and Extension offices, serve as program hubs and help citizens sign up for the program and submit collection kits.

Ideal I-TICK participants are people who work outside on a regular basis, including employees in park districts, forest preserves, mosquito abatement agencies, and public health departments as well as master gardeners and master naturalists in these University of Illinois Extension programs. Participants are asked to collect ticks found on themselves in their normal work and record data for five days within a two-week timeframe.

Dr. Marilyn O'Hara Ruiz, with University of Illinois, and Dr. Nohra Mateus-Pinilla, with the Illinois Natural History Survey/Prairie Research Institute, developed the I-TICK program as a way to get a better understanding of the types of ticks found throughout the state at different times of year. In Illinois, there are four species of ticks that are known to pose a public health threat. The data collected from I-TICK will be used to inform public health policy in Illinois.

Go get more information, visit the I-TICK website or contact the I-TICK Coordinator, Dr. Lee Ann Lyons, at leelyons@illinois.edu. To sign up for the program, interested individuals are asked to contact their nearest local hub organization (see a list here). The program hopes to receive 1,000 completed tick collection kits in 2018, and the program will continue for the next few years.


Most of our exposure to ticks in the Midwest involves three species of tick that often associate with people and pets.  These are the blacklegged tick or deer tick, the American dog tick or wood tick, and the lone star tick, all of which are generally active between March and November. After hatching from an egg, each these tick species has three life stages (larva, nymph, and adult) and must get a blood meal from a host to move between each stage, but the species differ widely in size, appearance, host preference, and potential to transmit disease agents.

Types of Ticks Common to the Midwest

Tick Biology and Development

The three tick species most often seen in the Upper Midwest are the so-called “hard ticks” because of a hard, shield-like structure found on their backs. The hard tick life cycle begins when a mated, blood-fed female deposits a thousand or more eggs in a mass on the ground. Larvae emerge from the eggs and develop into nymphs, which then become adults. Immature ticks (larvae and nymphs) must bite a host and feed on blood before they can develop to the next stage. Larval ticks (also known as “seed ticks”) can be distinguished from nymphs and adults by their small size and six legs. Nymphs and adults are larger and have eight legs. The ticks of medical importance in the Upper Midwest all feed on a variety of separate small vertebrate hosts (typically rodents or birds) as larvae and nymphs, then on larger hosts (including people) as adults. 

Diseases Carried By Ticks & Prevention Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Tickborne Diseases of the United States -- A wealth of information about how to prevent tick bites, diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne disease, and other topics.


"Common Ticks" from the Illinois Department of Public Health

"Identification Key to Some Common Ticks of Illinois


"Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases in Iowa" from Iowa State University Extension Publications

See individual disease entries on this page from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

"Tips and Tricks for Avoiding and Removing Ticks" from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources


"Ticks and Your Health" from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

"Michigan's Five Most Common Ticks" from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services


"Tickborne Disease" from the Minnesota Department of Health

"Ticks and their Control" From University of Minnesota Extension


"Tickborne infections in Wisconsin" from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services