Tiny lone star tick larvae (also called “seed ticks” or “turkey mites”) are active now. Hundreds recently emerged from egg masses deposited by females climbing vegetation to await passing hosts. Reaction to multiple bites cause painful itching that can last about 3 weeks. Dressing appropriately, using repellents, and checking regularly for ticks are important actions to take to reduce the chances for ticks attaching and feeding on you during the remainder of the tick season.
Ticks seeking blood meals work from the ground up. They will climb on vegetation and wait for a passing host, so most are picked up on the lower legs of those passing by. Anyone unfortunate enough to walk through or stand in an area where a mass of lone star tick eggs has hatched may find themselves covered with hundreds of the tiny parasites that attach and feed for about 2 days (Figure 1).
Protecting Yourself from “Seed Ticks”
Create a Clothing Barrier
- Wear long pants and tuck the bottoms into socks. This helps to keep ticks on the outer surface of your clothing and off your skin.
- Wear light colors so ticks are more visible.
- Clothing sprays containing permethrin (for example Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent for Clothing & Gear and Permanone) can be used when in areas ticks are known to be abundant or if the risk is unknown. These products are not for application to skin.
- Deet-based repellents with a concentration of at least 20% can provide good protection.
- Picaridin and botanical or herbal repellents are unlikely to provide much protection against ticks.
Check for Ticks
- Check yourself thoroughly for ticks and carefully remove them.
By Lee Townsend, Extension Entomologist