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Do ticks somehow choose a preferred host


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While browsing around "Amateur Science" topics, I was reminded of an experiment I did a while ago. Whenever I'd go hiking with friends, especially one particular friend, I'd come out of the woods and he'd never have a single tick on him. I often wondered if ticks somehow choose a preferred host. 

So, one day after hiking, we took the tick that was on me and did a small experiment. We sat between two to three feet apart on a wood floor and placed the tick in the center of us. We would then wait to see who the tick would walk to. After he within a couple inches of our body, we would change our positions and orientation and put the tick in the center again. The result was 10 out of 11 times the tick walked to me.

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29 minutes ago, FragmentedCurve said:

While browsing around "Amateur Science" topics, I was reminded of an experiment I did a while ago. Whenever I'd go hiking with friends, especially one particular friend, I'd come out of the woods and he'd never have a single tick on him. I often wondered if ticks somehow choose a preferred host. 

So, one day after hiking, we took the tick that was on me and did a small experiment. We sat between two to three feet apart on a wood floor and placed the tick in the center of us. We would then wait to see who the tick would walk to. After he within a couple inches of our body, we would change our positions and orientation and put the tick in the center again. The result was 10 out of 11 times the tick walked to me.

Is this animal cruelty?

 

I once sat on a nest of baby ticks . Turns out I was all their preferred host

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54 minutes ago, FragmentedCurve said:

So, one day after hiking, we took the tick that was on me and did a small experiment.

I'm pretty sure that if you remove a latched on tick, it's a dead tick.

 

58 minutes ago, FragmentedCurve said:

The result was 10 out of 11 times the tick walked to me.

Did you, smoke some wicked weed or eat a red and white mushroom?

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12 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

I'm pretty sure that if you remove a latched on tick, it's a dead tick.

 

Did you, smoke some wicked weed or eat a red and white mushroom?

It wasn't latched.

And no... I don't smoke anything...

33 minutes ago, geordief said:

Exactly.

I'm not here for ethics (despite my avatar).

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1 minute ago, FragmentedCurve said:

It wasn't latched.

Well, I have dog's and I'm surrounded by deer infested meadow's, and in my experience of 1/2 hour walks with the dog's in the surrounding area and my, tick😣, vigilantes; they're always latched... 😉

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It's your word against mine and this is a science forum, so I don't have to prove myself right, but you do...

Edit... cross posted. 

Edited by dimreepr
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I see where the miscommunication is -- how I got the tick. In this particular case, my friend saw it on my neck/shoulder area before it bit me. I just picked it up.

The result could've been a coincidence. We only did 11 "trials". I thought it was enough to suggest that something is going on with how a tick finds a body.

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3 minutes ago, FragmentedCurve said:

The result could've been a coincidence. We only did 11 "trials". I thought it was enough to suggest that something is going on with how a tick finds a body.

Since you changed position every time it got close, it's more likely that you frightened it into changing direction...

 

xkwn2zzb-1409175060.png

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16 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Since you changed position every time it got close, it's more likely that you frightened it into changing direction...

Actually, a tick can sense a LOT, mostly body heat and smell (I believe they're attracted to ammonia in sweat). They try to latch on to you with their front legs, then crawl towards skin. 

I suppose they might have different behavior when on a flat surface, but since they need to latch on to their dinner, it doesn't seem likely they're trying to flea. 😁

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29 minutes ago, Phi for All said:

Actually, a tick can sense a LOT, mostly body heat and smell (I believe they're attracted to ammonia in sweat). They try to latch on to you with their front legs, then crawl towards skin. 

I suppose they might have different behavior when on a flat surface, but since they need to latch on to their dinner, it doesn't seem likely to me they're trying to flea. 😁

Meh.

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1 hour ago, iNow said:

Was your friend wearing Deet?

No. It was an impromptu hike into the woods behind my house -- a nature walk. We didn't have any kind of bug repellent. However, I don't know if he was wearing deodorant or cologne.

The reason we did the experiment was because I've had so many anecdotal experiences like this with ticks, I wanted a real measurement. Especially with this particular friend. We'd walk the same path through tall grass or in the woods and I'd come out with ticks on me while he'd have none. On that day, I took the opportunity to have a somewhat controlled experiment, since I had the living tick.

I should point out, if anyone tries to repeat this, I'd really like to know the results.

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18 minutes ago, FragmentedCurve said:

No. It was an impromptu hike into the woods behind my house -- a nature walk. We didn't have any kind of bug repellent. However, I don't know if he was wearing deodorant or cologne.

The reason we did the experiment was because I've had so many anecdotal experiences like this with ticks, I wanted a real measurement. Especially with this particular friend. We'd walk the same path through tall grass or in the woods and I'd come out with ticks on me while he'd have none. On that day, I took the opportunity to have a somewhat controlled experiment, since I had the living tick.

I should point out, if anyone tries to repeat this, I'd really like to know the results.

If anyone else tries this ,would they put it on Youtube?😆

 

Not taking the piss,just hard not to laugh.

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More broadly, since repellents like Deet and similar products actually work, it seems rather obvious that ticks can sense and smell things in their environment that serve to alter their response or path... including differences between Person1 and Person2

Ticks also often focus on specific hosts... and will differentially bite deer over dogs or humans, for example. 

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3 minutes ago, iNow said:

More broadly, since repellents like Deet and similar products actually work, it seems rather obvious that ticks can sense and smell things in their environment that serve to alter their response or path... including differences between Person1 and Person2

Ticks also often focus on specific hosts... and will differentially bite deer over dogs or humans, for example. 

If that's true, do we know why they'd prefer one species over another? And what would make them prefer one host over another within the same species?

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It’s probably better to view them as opportunistic. Host availability and predictability matter more than just about anything else. 

They’re also generalists when it comes to global populations, but specialists when it comes to local or regional populations. They’ll bite just about anything, but are better at biting certain things based on their local environment.

It seems they’re pretty sensitive to temperature and humidity, and likely respond to chemical signals and similar hormone related outputs bodies generate.

I cannot comment on its validity or modernity, but this overview seems comprehensive: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3790072/

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11 minutes ago, MigL said:

Haven't you guys ever heard of Lyme Disease ?
Stop playing with ticks.

I wish they’d leave us alone, but every time we’re outside with the kids and/or the dog, we need to do a tick check on everyone before coming back in.

I’ve pushed back the tree line quite a bit and cleared lots of brush, essentially reclaiming yard space behind the garden, which has helped, but they will always have the upper hand... especially given the number of deer and foxes and groundhogs and wild turkeys and related wildlife moving through our property. 

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28 minutes ago, iNow said:

I wish they’d leave us alone, but every time we’re outside with the kids and/or the dog, we need to do a tick check on everyone before coming back in.

I’ve pushed back the tree line quite a bit and cleared lots of brush, essentially reclaiming yard space behind the garden, which has helped, but they will always have the upper hand... especially given the number of deer and foxes and groundhogs and wild turkeys and related wildlife moving through our property. 

I've had them regularly for the past 25 years.At first I thought that Lyme's disease was only prevalent in N America  and maybe mainland Europe until a friend in England got it.

 

So I  now  wash my hands whenever I need to remove them from different ,sometimes alarming parts of my body.

It feels like I should have built up an immunity but I don't know if that is what happens.

 

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3 hours ago, iNow said:

I’ve pushed back the tree line quite a bit and cleared lots of brush, essentially reclaiming yard space behind the garden, which has helped, but they will always have the upper hand... especially given the number of deer and foxes and groundhogs and wild turkeys and related wildlife moving through our property. 

Time to let out the chicken and ducks. And potentially opossums? But seriously though, tick-borne diseases are likely to become an increasing problem with potentially very serious consequences.

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We've become big fans of possums since learning they eat ticks, but we don't have many. We'd also be totally down with having a few chickens out back (especially given how many eggs we go through), but it's not allowed in our neighborhood. :( 

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2 hours ago, iNow said:

We've become big fans of possums since learning they eat ticks, but we don't have many. We'd also be totally down with having a few chickens out back (especially given how many eggs we go through), but it's not allowed in our neighborhood. :( 

Yeah, stupid bylaws here, too. Based on weather patterns there is going to be an uptick of ehm ticks. Unless one is already in a highly tick infested zone, not sure whether the numbers are projected to increase even further. But yet another reservoir for diseases.

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