Carbon dioxide (CO2), 1-octen-3-ol, acetone, ammonium hydroxide, L-lactic-acid, dimethyl trisulphide and isobutyric acid were tested as attractants for two tick species, Amblyomma americanum and Dermacentor variabilis (Acari: Ixodidae), in dose–response bioassays using Y-tube olfactometers. Only CO2, acetone, 1-octen-3-ol and ammonium hydroxide elicited significant preferences from adult A. americanum, and only CO2 was attractive to adult D. variabilis. Acetone, 1-octen-3-ol and ammonium hydroxide were separately evaluated at three doses against CO2 (from dry ice) at a field site supporting a natural population of A. americanum nymphs and adults. Carbon dioxide consistently attracted the highest number of host-seeking ticks. However, for the first time, acetone, 1-octen-3-ol and ammonium hydroxide were shown to attract high numbers of A. americanum. Further research is needed to determine the utility of these semiochemicals as attractants in tick surveillance and area-wide management programmes.