How Do Ticks & Mites Differ? |

How Do Ticks & Mites Differ?

Matthew Bergstresser

Matthew has a Master of Arts degree in Physics Education. He has taught high school chemistry and physics for 14 years.

Expert Contributor
Christianlly Cena

Christianlly has taught college physics and facilitated laboratory courses. He has a master's degree in Physics and is pursuing his doctorate study.

There are numerous small insects that affect other animals. Ticks and mites are external parasites that are similar in some ways, but different in other ways. In this lesson, we will differentiate between ticks and mites.

Face Mites

There is a very good chance that right now there are mites on your body. What's worse is they are most likely on your face! Don't be alarmed, it is normal and studies regarding the two species of mites that reside on humans have been found them on every human tested! Ticks, on the other hand, are probably not on you right now. If they are, it is because they got on you while you were outside in tall grass or in shrubbery. Let's look at the similarities and differences between ticks and mites.


Both ticks and mites are members of the Arachnida class of organisms, which includes spiders and scorpions. Before we get into the differences between ticks and mites, let's look at what they have in common.


In the larval stage, both ticks and mites have six legs. When they are nymphs and adults they grow two more legs. They don't have separate heads and bodies. Their bodies are all one mass. The part of the tick and mite that contain the parts they feed with are on the capitulum.

The capitulum of a tick

The three major components of their mouths are the palps, chelicerae and hypostome. Both ticks and mites feed on animals whether it be blood, dead skin or skin oils. Let's now look at the differences between ticks and mites.



The most obvious difference between ticks and mites are their sizes. The tick can be seen with the naked eye and are generally 1 millimeter long, but can expand up to 3 centimeters in length after feeding. Mites are microscopic creatures that are generally less than a millimeter and are difficult to see with the naked eye.

Tick on the left and mite on the right

Body Hair and Hypostome

Ticks have short hair or none at all on their bodies, while mites have long hairs on their bodies. The hypostome is the structure on ticks and mite's capitulum that allows them to attach to their host. With ticks, the hypostome is visible and contains barbs that point back towards their bodies. It is inserted into the host and serves to very effectively anchor itself to the host. In fact, removing a tick when it is feeding is very difficult and many times the capitulum is separated from the rest of the tick body.

Barbed hypostome of a tick

The hypostome of mites is not visible from the outside and doesn't contain barbs. This means mites can easily be removed from their hosts.

Hosts of Ticks and Mites and Diseases Transmitted

All ticks live off of other organisms. They gorge on blood and then drop off of the host. Some mites don't feed on living organism while others do. Mites can feed on plants and animals while ticks strictly live on animal hosts. Both ticks and mites transmit disease to their hosts. Let's now compare the diseases that are tick borne and mite borne.

Ticks transmit three major diseases including lyme disease, rocky mountain spotty fever, and babesiosis. Mites transmit two major diseases including scrub typhus, and scabies. There are other minor ailments associated with mites such as anaemia, dermatosis, paralysis and otoacariasis, which is an infestation of mites in the ear canal. Let's now discuss how to prevent encountering ticks and mites.

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Additional Activities

Ticks and Mites: True or False Activity

This activity will help you assess your knowledge of the similarities and differences between ticks and mites.


Based on the given scenario, determine whether the following statements are true or false. To do this, print or copy this page on a blank paper and underline or circle the answer.

Greg was hired as a helper in an old poultry farm. The farm mostly contained chickens and ducks. On his first day, he was tasked to feed the poultry. After a while, he felt severe irritation with swelling and raised reddish spots on his skin. He sustained multiple bites on different parts of his body, especially in the arms and legs. Some samples of tiny live insects were obtained from his clothing. Most of these insects were oval-shaped with a reddish color.

True | False 1. A tick or mite would use its retractable structure known as chelicerae to anchor into Greg's skin.

True | False 2. Greg should wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants, and head coverings next time.

True | False 3. Color is a feature that can be used to differentiate a tick from a mite.

True | False 4. Mites and ticks are parasitic organisms that derive nutrients from their host's body.

True | False 5. All kinds of mites are microscopic and cannot be directly seen by the human eye.

True | False 6. Greg obtained these reddish spots from mites.

True | False 7. Greg's bite wounds should be disinfected to prevent further infection and possible transmission of diseases.

True | False 8. Most mites live in the soil and strictly feed on plants.

Answer Key

  1. False, because the correct answer is: To anchor into Greg's skin, a tick or mite would use its retractable structure known as hypostome.
  2. True
  3. False, because the correct answer is: Size is a feature that can be used to differentiate a tick from a mite.
  4. True
  5. True
  6. False, because the correct answer is: Greg obtained these reddish spots from ticks.
  7. True
  8. False, because the correct answer is: Most mites live in the soil and feed on plants and animals.

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