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tiny Seed Ticks

tiny Seed Ticks
Fort Bragg, Cumberland County, North Carolina, USA
July 9, 2005
Size: 1 mm
I had a great and horrible morning bug hunting today. I decided to go off the beaten path and found some great stuff including this wildflower (with caterpillar) I haven't seen here before. I squatted down to get some close-ups and when I stood up there were ticks covering my left hand. I went into a wiping, flicking frenzy only to notice that there were even more of them on the left side of my shorts. I continued my wiping frenzy (out of the woods now) until I realized I would have to start picking them off one by one. (this took 40 minutes, and I just left my shoes and socks there...I guess I'll have to toss them...unless anyone has a suggestion) After the initial frenzy was over I did take a few shots.

Images of this individual: tag all
tiny Seed Ticks Seed ticks on pants Wildflower near seed ticks

Reminds Me of the Time About 30 Years Ago.....
.... my wife and I were birding at the Beltsville Agricultural Center, and we walked up a gravel lane into an abandoned swine research area that was thick with tall grass and weeds. I went off the gravel into the weeds chasing some LBJ sparrow until I happened to look down and saw that my pants were covered with ticks, maybe 1,000 of them, much larger than in your photos. I went back to the gravel area and took off my pants and started shaking them. My wife was bent over brushing off some that were on my my legs and underwear. Took about 10 minutes to be pretty sure they were all off before I put my pants back on. Meantime, we were within sight of traffic on a fairly busy road, and we sure got a lot of horn honks and high fives before it was all over :-))

Sounds funny now,
but I'm sure it wasn't at the time!

Wildflower, ticks
The wildflower is Pale Meadow-Beauty, Rhexia mariana. Look for the similar, but bright pink Virginia Meadow-Beauty, Rhexia virginica in similar places. Very nice mid-summer flowers--a season when we don't have a whole lot blooming.

I'm much more paranoid about ticks than I used to be. Three years ago I got what was probably Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (or Erlichiosis) from a lone tick bite, obtained while out birding--walking through some tall grass. I had a high fever and horrible headache for several days, despite prompt treatment with antibiotics. It was a really unpleasant experience. Lyme disease is also apparently fairly common in the Carolinas. I don't go out in brush any more without long pants tucked into my socks, long-sleeve shirt tucked in, and liberal application of strong DEET around my ankles and waist. When I come back in, I always put clothes immediately into the washing machine, do a tick check, and take a shower. This procedure has usually kept me from getting bit. It also keeps ticks from being brought inside.

I'm not trying to lecture, just to caution you. The tick-borne diseases are no fun at all.

Patrick Coin
Durham, North Carolina

I also was assaulted by the hatchling tick masses today while insect shooting. And these ticklets can be very irritating. The best thing to do when these are encountered is to end your day because they cannot be completely removed. The good news about them is that these seedling tick masses do not transmit tick borne diseases. They are first feeders. However you always need to be vigilant for tick removal in the summer months in the south. Once you have had Erhlichiosis (easily the commonest of the infections) you will not have long term effects or a repeat febrile infection. Anyone with fever in summer that is not explained by other symptoms should see their doctor.

I did some reading
and found that seed ticks can't transmit Rocky Mountain Fever, but couldn't find any confirmation that they don't transmit Lyme's. In fact, somewhere I read that it MIGHT be passed from adult to eggs to larva.

Nymphal ticks
Nymphals can transmit the Lyme spirochete. But this still requires the nymphs to feed on a vector species and then the human. And the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours to transmit as it requires the blood to reactivate the gut spirochetes. Likely adults are required for Ehrlichiosis and RMSF and 6 to 10 hours of attachment is enough. Lyme is a rare disease in NC. Ehrlichiosis is likely 200 times more common or more in people who are frequent woodland visitors. Prevention is still key. And the wide sticky tape like the clear kind used for closing boxes is excellent for vacuuming up the little guys. I always forget to put mine in the truck in July.

Confirmation that they do transmit Lyme disease
Look down the page for the Lyme disease section.

Sorry to hear about your mixed day. I've had a similar experience twice in one day in the dry Northwestern part of Costa Rica. In my case, I looked down and saw my pants literally crawling with them below the knee. I thought they were chiggers, but now I realize they must have been seed ticks like these. I did also get assaulted pretty bad by chiggers in the same trip (scratched my ankles raw). Now when I'm in a suspect area I follow Patrick's routine.

I found two adult ticks on me yesterday after being out for most of the day. I always seem to feel them when they crawl up my neck. The second one was discovered in the middle of the night, and woke me from my sleep. I'm not sure how it got past the shower routine.

I try to follow the same rules. I was slathered with 25% deet this morning, but no long pants. I've never sat in a nest of ticks before, though. I threw my clothes away. I'm hoping a shower washes off any straglers, but don't really know.

Ok... so I do a fair amount of hunting in the summertime and tics, chiggers and the like are a real problem. I don't like chemical's because of the scent, but sometimes acquiesce. As for barrier, the best and most fool proof barrier for your lower body is, drumroll please, ladies nylon stockings. Yep, Conservation agent in MO at a Hunter Safety course shared that tip and he's 100% spot on. No tic or chigger no matter how small can get underneath or bite through. Skeeters might be a different story but not the topic here. I like the control top variety, they make me look skinny again. ( : There are hunters clothing called "bug skinz", very tight fitting "stretchy" material for your upper body, and very comfortable. Yesterday I left the fields because I was covered with seed tics.. They got through the mesh on my summer gloves and my hands were covered with seed tics that were already attached. Bt the bug skinz top stopped them at the wrist.

As for the clothing after wandering into a seed tic infestation, remove clothes in the garage (we call it the ugly naked man dash to the bathroom from the garage), put everything in a trash bag (including shoes / boots), put in freezer for a few days (this is what you're supposed to do with clothes and stuffed animals if your kids come home from school with head lice). Then go outside, shake off the frozen tics then wash clothes. When frozen, they fall off like dust.. That's what I do!

nylons & freezer
good tips. Thanks for the info!

Our tick season was quite thick here in North Dakota this year, I use 30 percent deet backwoods off, sprayed all over legs to keep them under control, I performed an experiment with one leg sprayed and the other not, ticks removed from my sweep net and placed on both legs, sprayed leg they fell off immediately, not dead, just got off in a hurry, other leg, climbing quickly towards upper areas! You can get 100 percent deet spray, in pump bottle form at sports and tackle shops, can be used on bare skin but not advised, and you can also get a repellant that is only advised for use on clothes, sprayed on before wearing. I'll get the name of it and post it, but those repellants are quite effective in tick country.

Repellents for clothes, etc.
The repellent to be used for clothes is actually permethrin insecticide. You spray it on say, long pants, and let them dry--never spray on skin. It is reputed to be highly effective by a friend of mine who does biological survey work here in NC. I've not tried it, but have a bottle--it may get use this summer. One brand it Sawyer Clothing Tick Repellent. It is 0.5% permethrins.

I've found ticks and chiggers often get in around my waistband when I'm in brush. I'm planning on buying some overalls and permetrhin treating them for this purpose.

A good link on insect repellents from University of Maryland. It has a discussion of some newer formulations, and caution about use of different strengths for children.

I see people recommend adhesive tape for removing small ticks. I've not tried this. A pet-hair roller might work.

If you can't wash clothes right away, you can bag them in a plastic trash bag. Ordinary laundry detergent should kill ticks, I believe, it is not necessary to discard clothes.

Patrick Coin
Durham, North Carolina

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