Difference Between Hard Ticks and Soft Ticks
The primary difference between hard ticks and soft ticks is the shield-like scutum present on hard tick specimens. This shiny surface is found along the dorsal section of the body. In female specimens, the scutum expands to allow for feedings. Soft ticks do not possess these hard surfaces and instead possess a soft, leathery exoskeleton.
Soft ticks and hard ticks differ in their life cycles, as well. Hard ticks undergo three distinct life stages, while soft ticks undergo several molts in each life stage prior to reaching adulthood. Feeding during nymphal stages also represents a considerable difference between soft and hard ticks: soft ticks feed several times, while hard ticks feed only once during each stage. The mouthparts of the soft ticks are located on the underside of the head and are not visible from above. Hard tick mouthparts are easily identifiable.