Livestock Entomology

Soft Ticks

Soft Ticks (Argasidae)

Fowl Tick [Argas persicus (Oken)]

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The fowl tick or “blue bug” can be a very important poultry parasite. The tick can cause weight loss, blemishes, and lower egg production. 

All life cycles feed on the same type of host, and the life cycle is completed fairly quickly. Large populations are capable of killing birds or chicks through blood loss. The female lays her eggs, which can be 25 to 100 at a time, in cracks and crevices. The larva feed for 4-5 days before completing that stage of development and molting into the nymphal stage. The nymphs feed at night, requiring several feeding before reaching the adult stage. The adults feed mostly at night, hiding around roosting areas during the day.

The fowl tick has the ability to go without feeding for extended periods of time, therefore, simply leaving poultry facilities vacant for long periods of time will not be very effective in eliminating the pest population. Thorough spray applications can help control the ticks, but the best control is sanitation.

Spinose Ear Tick [Otobius megnini (Duges)]

Spinose Ear Tick (Otobius megnini) nymph. Credit: D. Kattes Tarleton State University

Spinose Ear Tick (Otobius megnini) nymph.

Credit: D. Kattes Tarleton State University


The Spinose ear tick is a common parasite of a wide variety of both wild and domestic hosts including cattle, and horses. This tick is found in the ear canals of the host. Large numbers can cause irritation, inflammation, and even deafness. Secondary bacterial infections can develop and cause sloughing of the ear tissue. Infested cattle will develop a “flop-eared” condition which causes discomfort when moving the head.

 The larva and nymphs are blood feeders, yet the adult stage is not. The larva stage become active in March. The nymph is recognizable by the spines on the outside covering and the peanut shape of the body. The nymph will feed multiple times over a 30 to 200 day period. After the last feeding the nymph falls to the ground, and molts into an adult. The adults are active in low light and the primary reason is to mate. The females lay their eggs around feed bunks and boards. The larva then hatch and climb to higher structure to find a host.

The best control for Spinose ear tick is the use of insecticide ear tags.

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