Although the ideal habitats for each of the tick species
may vary, they all seek environmental conditions that
are conducive to survival, host acquisition, and reproduction.
For the blacklegged tick, which is very sensitive to
hot and dry conditions, the ideal habitat consists of
a forested area with a dense shrub layer and deep litter
layers. The shrub layer vegetation and litter provide
moist, cool conditions, while providing cover and food
resources for a variety of hosts. In general, as the
density of the shrub layer and depth of the leaf litter
declines, so do tick numbers. Further, since hosts seem
to be more abundant along forest edges, ticks tend to
be more abundant at the margins of woodlands compared
to forest interiors. In residential settings, the majority
of blacklegged ticks will be found within woods and
associated edges, while about 10% occur in landscaped
areas, particularly those with dense groundcover plantings.
Because of increasing heat and decreasing moisture,
ticks are rarely found on lawns beyond a few feet from
wooded edge. Curiously, few ticks are found in wetland
Lone star ticks coexist with blacklegged ticks in
these types of forested habitats. However, the lone star tick does
not appear to have the same moisture restrictions and survives well
in areas with sparse shrub layers and minimal litter.
Since immature American dog ticks feed primarily
on meadow voles and other small mammals, it is more frequently encountered
in old-field environments, along trails and paths, pastures, and along
the wooded margins of forested areas. Along forest edges, it is not
uncommon to collect adult American dog, lone star, and blacklegged
ticks in a single survey in spring. In more urbanized settings, the
American dog tick inhabits overgrown areas, such as vacant lots and
rights-of-way, where adults tend to feed primarily on dogs.
The brown dog tick is unique among the medically
important ticks of New Jersey in that it has adapted to indoor environments.
In colder climates, it completes its entire life cycle indoors and
can become a serious pest in kennels and residences, using dogs as
the host for all active life stages. Cracks and crevices in these structures
provide protected areas. Because of favorable conditions within the
structures and the ready availability of hosts, the life cycle may
be completed in several months.