Myths and Misconceptions About Ticks (Part One)

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about how to avoid, find, remove and dispose of ticks. To protect yourself, your family and your pets, it’s important to know how to stay tick-safe. What follows are the most common myths, misconceptions and truths about ticks.

After months of lockdown because of the pandemic, countless Americans are flocking outdoors to enjoy parks, hiking trails, gardens and beaches. We’re all seeking fresh air, exercise and fun. Unfortunately, ticks are out also - in force, and in every state. And that means your chances of being bitten by a tick are also high.

“We have been studying and educating about ticks for many years” said Dr. Stephen Rich  Professor of Microbiology and Director of the Laboratory of Medical Zoology at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA. What follows is some very accurate information about these blood sucking creepy crawlies. 

1- Myth   You only need to worry about ticks in the summer, and only in certain parts of the country.         

Fact: Unfortunately, ticks thrive year-round and they’re found in all 50 states. You are at highest risk of getting a tick bite in the spring and early summer because easy to miss microscopic nymphal stage ticks are out and about. Larger adult ticks are out in the fall and winter and also transmit tick-borne diseases.

Cold doesn’t kill them. Ticks don’t exactly hibernate; they lay dormant in winter. They’ve been seen crawling through snow in February. Climate changes also are allowing ticks to spread.

They are gross and they carry more than 15 diseases according to the CDC, and include bacteria,viruses and parasites. Although it’s rare in the US, certain types of ticks can even cause paralysis, according to Harvard Health

  1. Myth: Ticks only live in wooded areas. I’m safe from ticks at the beach. 

Fact: Nope! You don’t need to be in a heavily wooded area to pick up a tick. And we’re not the only species who go to the beach. Ticks hide in the bushes, ground cover and in beach dunes.

 To avoid ticks, only walk on open sand and don’t brush up against beach grass. 

  1. Myth: You have to be near deer to be exposed to deer ticks.

Fact: Untrue. You may think you are safe from ticks if you don’t see any deer. But deer are not the only tick hosts. 

Ticks feed on pretty much whatever moves, including mice, birds, chipmunks, raccoons, squirrels, birds and even reptiles. Ticks have been around for millions of years so they’ve had plenty of time to find the best places to live.Their  natural enemies include  opossums, guinea hen and wild turkeys, but they feed on them too.

  1. Myth: A tick can jump onto you from a tree.
    Fact - Ticks can’t jump or fly, although they’ve been known to climb up trees or hide in a tree trunk. Ticks generally wait patiently on or close to the ground for prey (like you or your pet). Then they take hold onto your skin or clothes, or your pet’s fur, before attaching its skin.
  1. Myth: You’ll feel it if a tick bites you.

Fact - Ticks secrete a numbing agent when they bite you so you won’t feel it. In fact, you may never realize that a tick attached and bit you. Fewer than 50% of Lyme patients recall a tick bite. 

That’s why thorough daily tick checks are crucial for you, your family and your pets. Here’s our video on how to do a tick check on yourself, your family and your pets, including what to do if you find a tick.

  1. Myth: Ticks can smell blood.

Fact- What ticks actually detect is carbon dioxide, ammonia in sweat and heat from potential hosts. Your breath is their favorite scent and no amount of insect repellent can hide it. Once they sense CO2 or sweat (and some ticks have very fine sensory organs) they crawl towards the source. They can sense even the slightest movement and begin to detect you from 50 feet or more away.

Some ticks will perch themselves on grasses or brush with their sticky little legs outstretched, just waiting for a host to walk by. If you brush against them, they board you.

Read Myths & Misconceptions About Ticks Part Two