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How ticks use static electricity

Ticks and static electricity 

Ticks are a common concern for outdoor enthusiasts during the summer months, and a new study shows they may have an easier way to latch onto their hosts. Research published in the Current Biology Journal shows that ticks can move through the air using static electricity, using the static charge to latch onto people and animals. Other recent studies show that ticks are not the only species to use static electricity to find their hosts– even certain types of roundworms use this technique to target bumblebees. While this is relatively new research, it should not be taken lightly. Ticks are known carriers of several diseases, and learning how to protect yourself from these pests is important. 

Tick on human skin

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How it works 

Normally, ticks find their host through a process called questing. During this process, ticks crawl up blades of grass or perch on the edges of leaves, waiting for their next blood meal. Cues such as carbon dioxide, heat, and movement serve as a stimulus that alerts the tick to a potential host. Once a suitable host is detected, the tick climbs onto the host as it passes by. 

In the new study, researchers found that ticks also use static electricity to locate and latch onto their host. As hosts move through the air and ground, they naturally generate a charge. This charge is strong enough to passively attract ticks across air gaps and can help the tick attach to its host. This is significant because it means that ticks are not limited to the reach of their bodies; they can latch onto hosts without making direct contact. 

Are ticks dangerous?

No matter how ticks reach their host, one bite can result in serious health issues. Ticks are known carriers of vector-borne illnesses that can be viral, bacterial, or parasitic. Lyme disease makes up ⅔ of vector-borne illnesses in the United States, and a late diagnosis can leave patients with permanent neurological damage. Ehrlichiosis, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Tularemia, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are some of the additional diseases ticks are responsible for in the U.S. Some tick species can even cause a mild to severe allergic reaction to red meat. Despite the growing number of tick-borne illnesses, no vaccines are available to humans to combat the above mentioned illnesses. 

finger with a tick crawling on the top with a dog outside in the background

Protect yourself from ticks

While many of us look forward to outdoor activities this summer, the dangers of ticks should not be overlooked. Follow these tips to keep yourself, your family, and your pets safe: 

  • Keep grass cut short and trim back vegetation along trails, paths, and yard edges
  • Discourage animals that are hosts for ticks, such as mice and various wildlife, from your yard by removing wood/rock piles, removing seed waste around bird feeders
  • Wear light-colored clothing to spot ticks quickly
  • Tuck pants inside socks or boots
  • Use EPA-registered products such as DEET
  • Check for ticks daily if you have been outdoors
  • Immediately launder any clothing that may have come in contact with ticks

In light of this new research, additional technology may be developed to reduce the risk of ticks using static electricity to find their host. Treating pets or clothing with anti-static coatings may disrupt this interaction and reduce the risk of an infestation. 

woman spraying bug repellent in an outside area

Mosquito and tick control that you can trust 

No one wants to spend their summer worrying about mosquitoes and ticks. Our technicians know the dangers of vector-borne diseases–and are trained to protect your family from these pests. Contact the experts you can trust at Western Exterminator to control these pesky insects on your property. 

With our comprehensive treatment plans and free inspections, our team can tackle the most stubborn insects. Learn more about our mosquito and tick control program, or give us a call at 888-550-3204 to get started.

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