Have you heard that ticks fall down from trees, jumping on unsuspecting people? This is a very common myth that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
No ticks can’t fall down or jump from trees to land on you. They’re lazy parasites waiting in tall grass for their meal ticket to brush against them. They stand with their legs outstretched waiting to latch onto the next animal that walks nearby.
A walk through the woods in the summer could put you within arms reach of 100s of ticks. If you’re not careful you might end up carrying an unwanted guest back home for dinner.
Ticks aren’t like other blood sucking insects. They’re closely related to spiders even though they can’t spin webs. There’s a lot of misinformation when it comes to ticks. The rest of this article will teach you how to avoid ticks and reduce your risk of catching a tick borne illness.
Do Ticks Live In Trees?
Technically, ticks don’t live in trees, but that’s somewhat misleading. They live closer to the ground in tall grass, shrubs, brush, and overgrown vegetation.
With that being said, ticks love shaded areas and their numbers dramatically increase as you enter the tree canopy. They thrive in cool wet environments which naturally draws in animals for them to feed.
Ticks can’t physically jump, fly or drop down on you. They ambush their prey by crawling up low shrubs or tall grass and waiting with their legs extended out in front of them.
They wave around their front legs using them to sense heat and carbon dioxide as animals walk by. Most of these ticks can’t even see and just lie waiting for something to brush up against them.
Ticks Are Slow Moving
Ticks can’t fly, jump, hop, run or skip. They’re one of the laziest parasites around. They don’t even try to move fast to find a blood host.
They just hang out lazily waiting for their next meal ticket to walk by. Hanging on the ends of leaves or grass “Questing” with their legs outstretched waiting to grab the next warm body.
They need to feed on blood before they can move onto the breeding stage of their life cycle. If you keep to the center of the trail while hiking your risk of picking up a tick is low.
The risk rises fast as you immediately step off the trail. That’s where the highest concentration of ticks will be waiting. Deer and small animals like to use trails so that’s where ticks breed and lie waiting for their next victim.
Can Ticks Climb Trees?
There’s no evidence to suggest ticks climb higher than 2-3 feet up a tree. Why would they bother? They can technically climb that high, but there’s more food near the ground.
You will mostly find ticks in tall grass and thick underbrush. Ticks can only grab onto people/animals that brush up against them. That’s why it’s so important to keep your grass cut and garden weeded. It’s not all about keeping up the appearance of your property.
Ticks Will Climb Up Your Body
Why do so many ticks end up near peoples neck and hairline? How do they get up there if they can’t jump, fly or drop down from trees?
Once you brush up against a tick it starts crawling across your body searching for exposed skin. It might not be able to see, but it can sense heat and smell carbon dioxide. They’re drawn to heat and carbon monoxide which brings them up towards your face.
They crawl up the back of your pants and shirt looking for the first section of bare skin they can find. When a tick is found near a person’s neck or heat it crawled up their body to get there. It didn’t fall down from the sky on an unsuspecting victim. You just didn’t realize it was crawling on you for the last 20 minutes.
How to Avoid and Repel Ticks
Avoiding contact with ticks is easier said than done. Try to avoid tall grass and overgrown vegetation during the summer months. Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and thick socks when traveling into tick infested areas.
Keep to the center of the path when hiking trails and avoid going off path. You can use insect repellents containing DEET to repel ticks. I really like OFF! Deep Woods Insect Repellent. It’s cheap, effective, and you can find it anywhere.
Remember that you can’t avoid ticks completely. It’s all about minimizing exposure and checking your body once you get home. With a shower and quick body inspection you don’t have to worry about ticks.