Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Questing Tick

Photo by MacroDave
Ever wonder how those ticks are impossible to see in nature and yet manage to "leap" onto you as you walk along?  This picture, featured in the March Missouri Conservationist will give you an idea of their technique.  The photograph grabbed me just like the tick would have grabbed the photographer, MacroDave, given the chance.  This particular one was a dog tick but they don't respect any species.

Ticks don't jump, fly or even chase us.  They just hang on the edge of a leaf with their six hind legs (remember that they are arachnids with eight legs like spiders and scorpions), reaching out with their two front legs looking for a little love to hug.  RadioLab says "Ticks literally stand there and wait for you (or a nice warm deer, or a dog, or one of those little ice cream trucks full of blood called a “mouse”) to come to them."

Their positioning isn't totally random.  They sense the carbon dioxide that mammals exhale and set up near the source.  Researchers describe putting out a block of dry ice on a white sheet and returning hours later to find lots of ticks surrounding it, waving their arms to this cold deity.

You can see a video of a questing tick at this site.  A very entertaining and scientific discussion on questing is found at this RadioLab link.  At the end, don't miss the Brad Paisley song about the romance of tick hunting.

Special thanks to MacroDave and the other amateur photographers like him whose special skills grace our blog from time to time.
Information of tick ID and which stages carry disease is on this PDF.