Over 100 soft tick species are known to exist in the world.
Unlike hard ticks, soft ticks do not possess a shield-like scutum. Rather, they are named for their soft, leathery exoskeletons. The mouthparts of the soft tick are located on the underside of the body and are not readily visible when viewed from above. These mouthparts consist of two palps and one hypostome. The barbed hypostome is capable of penetrating human skin and is not easily removed. In some cases, the hypostome may remain within the host even after the soft tick has been removed.
After the egg stage, six-legged soft tick larvae immediately seek blood meals and undergo a molt. Following this molt, soft ticks enter the nymphal stage, during which time they undergo several more molts. Soft ticks grow larger after each molt and feed many times during this stage of development. The development stages of soft ticks tend to last much longer than those of the hard tick.
Of the various soft ticks, the common fowl tick and the relapsing fever tick are two of the most common pest soft ticks in the U.S.
As is suggested by its name, the common fowl tick infests poultry houses. Also known as the chicken tick or blue bug, common fowl ticks are not only harmful to poultry, but they also may also prove dangerous to humans.
The relapsing fever tick is known to transmit relapsing fever. These ticks prefer to feed on small rodents, but will choose human hosts if the opportunity presents itself. Relapsing fever ticks remain infected for life, and they pass the bacteria to their offspring.
Like hard ticks, soft ticks are known to be vectors of various diseases. Among them are Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tick-borne relapsing fever. Proper removal of soft ticks is necessary to reduce the chance of infection.