How Ticks Think◀ Back To Blog
May 26, 2015
Lyme disease is scary business. Early symptoms include a red rash, fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, and aching joints. If untreated, these symptoms can worsen. Some experience rashes on other areas of their bodies, facial or Bell's palsy, severe headaches and neck stiffness, pain and swelling of large joints, shooting pains, heart palpitations, and dizziness. Whether treated or untreated, this disease can last years, and contribute to neurological damage, heart disease and arthritis. It should be safe to say that no one ever wants to get Lyme disease. That is why it is important to guard against tick bites. But how do you do that? Well, it starts by knowing how ticks think.
Ticks are wired to behave a certain way in order to survive. Just as birds fly south for the winter, ticks know what they must do to live. Life for a tick is all about finding a host. A host provides food, shelter and heat during the winter. A host is a source of transportation and a means for spreading the species. Nothing is more important than finding a host. So, when they aren't on a host, it is pretty much all they think about.
How do ticks get on their host?
It is often thought that ticks fall from trees; that's why you find them in your hair. But ticks don't fall, jump or fly. They get onto their host through a behavior called questing. When a tick sets its mind on getting a host, it waits on a tall piece of grass with its back legs on the grass and its front legs held out in a, "Pick me up, Mommy," position. With its front legs, it is able to smell--that's right, smell--its host as it approaches. The Haller's organs in their front legs, named after the scientist who first published a description of these structures, are able to detect carbon dioxide emissions from your breath and ammonia in your sweat. It can even sense changes in temperature as you approach. When you get close enough, it will grip onto whatever it can, and work its way up. It may start at the shoe and climb up under your pants. It may cling to the outer side of your pants and climb up to your shirt and eventually your head. That is how you get those ticks in your hair.
If you're looking to protect yourself from ticks, wear long pants, and tuck the bottoms into your socks if you intend to be in tall grass. Wear light colors so that you can see ticks if they try to climb up the outside of your clothing. A tucked shirt will force those ticks to climb all the way to your head. If you find a tick burrowed in your skin, use a tick-removal kit or a set of pliers to remove as much of the head as possible. It takes 24-48 hours for a tick to transmit Lyme disease.
Protecting yourself and your family from ticks in your yard begins with keeping the grass cut short. Short grass is less attractive to ticks and makes it harder for them to get onto a host. It is also a good idea to have a pest control company perform routine treatments. Your yard should never be a place to worry about ticks.
So, there you go. That's how ticks think. And how they get onto you. Keep yourself safe from ticks by dressing appropriately when walking in tall grass or through the woods. And protect your home with regular tick treatments and a trimmed lawn.