Updated: Oct 14, 2021
These stupid selfish creatures are arguably the WORST part of being a passionate naturalist or avid hiker. They like some people more than others, but no matter what you're bound to encounter them if you spend any time outdoors. They especially love tall grassy fields and forests.
As we've traveled across the United States we've encountered an array of these awful insects. The worst ones? Micro-ticks. Also referred to as "Seed Ticks," these blood-suckers are the size of a ball point pen and can range from a pale tan to a dark brown.
According to a medically-reviewed 2020 article by Medical News Today, seed ticks are ticks in the larval stage of life that have just hatched from the egg and have not yet found a host. From our experience and the sources we've researched, it is clear that ticks in this stage tend to appear in overwhelming numbers if encountered.
A case study from 2019 shows,
"Larval ticks have been known to attack in droves, causing diffuse pruritic erythematous papules and pustules,"
but the findings of the study showed it is unclear whether or not ticks in these stages can transfer harmful diseases. Regardless, avoiding these is absolutely beneficial. In 2020 we had two back-to-back encounters in Kentucky in mid September. Here's a snippet from my travel journey to give you an idea of the setting:
"By night two we had it down to a science and it elicited a little bit less panic. I had a moment of savoring while Ben inspected the entirety of my body from head to toe, tweezers and flash light in hand while the Catch Me If You Can soundtrack played in the background, Sarah Vaughn singing “Embrace me, oh you embraceable you” and I imagined the scene with Martin Sheen and Nancy Lenehan dancing in the kitchen romantically while they wash the dishes together... and I laughed, realizing the perfection of the situation with the music; Our scene embodying a more genuine symbol of true love and the less glamorous corners of the journey.
"Overall, this experience is a great reminder of something I learned in my 'Positive Psychology' course about how we’re much more adaptable than we could ever imagine. By day two we’ve got a system down, we’re laughing more, and honestly these micro ticks don’t stand a chance against us (although we wouldn’t dare step an inch off of municipal park pavement for the rest of our time here). By now our neighbors at the campground think we’re weird nudists that always take flashlights to each other’s bodies come nightfall.
This year we've encountered them even more frequently, across numerous states, and have found some patterns.
Tips for Avoiding These Ticks:
Their preferred season is summer, but we've found these ticks tend to "hatch" during warm spells in the Fall season, almost as if they're pushing out hatchlings in a desperate attempt to beat the season's end
We find them more frequently in dry weather conditions (or places that haven't gotten much rain)
Tall grass is NOT YOUR FRIEND avoid it at all costs, even a quick jaunt can leave you with dozens
Pants + bug spray + tucked-in socks? You're still not safe. They craw up quickly and until they reach any part of your body thats exposed. Plus we've found they're small enough to even burrow through socks/pants that are certain fabrics (ex: cotton, linen, etc.)
After encountering these patches of young ticks we've discovered the best ways to get rid of them as well.
Tips for Removal:
Once you've noticed seed ticks on you, take actions to return to your car, house, etc. to get to a shower or bathroom.
Immediately remove any clothing you can that has been infested (even if that means your socks, shoes, shirt, etc. while you're in you car headed home).
Put all clothing that is infested in a bag and seal it. After 24 hours the ticks will have suffocated and you can safely wash these garments.
Shower as quickly as possible, using soap, and lukewarm water.
**Exfoliation is key** Because these ticks are so small, they are extremely hard to wash off, especially if they've become attached. Exfoliating gloves, a loofa, or even a microfiber cloth is helpful to ensure thorough removal.
Lastly, do a full body scan. I'm talkin' tweezers, cell phone flash light (be sure you're not accidentally video dialing anyone 😳), and even a magnifying glass. Got a family member or friend you're willing to expose yourself to? Great, get their help for thorough examination.
Additionally, if you have a dog that was with you on the infested excursion, honestly just leave them behind. Just kidding... but really this opens a whole new can of worms...
Even on the proper tick and flea medication Mabel sported these babies for days after each incident. We scrubbed her down multiple times, took her swimming, brushed her out, exiled her from parts of the trailer, etc. and nothing worked; we would still find these tiny ticks crawling around wherever she had been. The good news? You'll find yourself immediately motivated to engage in a deep clean for your space without any hesitation. Plus after a day or two of hyper-fixating on shining a flash light on every square inch of your home, you'll see less and less, and they'll most likely be dead (that is if your dog is properly medicated!).