Ticks are not insects but are more closely related to spiders and mites. There are four species of ticks that are of medical and veterinary importance in New Jersey. All four pass through 4 stages of development: egg, larva, nymph, and the sexually differentiated adult. In addition, the ticks discussed here are 3-host ticks; they must locate and feed upon 3 different hosts in order to complete their life cycle. The animals that provide the bloodmeal are termed, maintenance hosts. With the possible exception of the brown dog tick, these ticks are not host-specific and, thus, will feed on a variety of vertebrates, including mammals, birds, reptiles, and incidental humans. Although birds are important maintenance hosts, they are not considered to be significant reservoirs of tick-borne pathogens, as they are more important for their ability to rapidly disperse ticks to new geographical areas.
Ticks acquire hosts via questing or host-seeking behavior, which largely determines the type of animal that is parasitized. Because of its importance as the vector of Lyme disease, human babesiosis, and human anaplasmosis, the black-legged tick receives the greatest emphasis, but major differences in the biology, behavior, and ecology of the other tick species are noted.