Lest anyone [re: city folk] think living in the country is all sweetness and light, let me disabuse those folk of that notion in one word: seed ticks.

Okay, it was two words. Sue me. But really, seed ticks are disgusting, horrible, nasty, annoying, and gross. Now, let me tell you how I really feel.

I HATE SEED TICKS.

And we live in Tick Central. This is the Tick Ranch. Our main crop is, you guessed it, TICKS. It’s just a fact of life in central NC.

What? You don’t know what a seed tick is?

A seed tick is the larval stage of a tick. They sit in masses of hundreds, if not thousands, in grass, or maybe in some alternate tick dimension where they phase into existence just as one of the kids walks by. Innocently brushing said grass/inter-dimensional portal, hundreds of tiny, teeny seed ticks glom on and begin swarming up the leg or arm at near superluminal speeds. When you notice it, you look down and see this massing army of what looks like moving dirt spreading up your leg and generally what happens next is you freak the fuck out.

Here, look:

Can you see those little dots? Those are about a hundred baby ticks crawling across my hand and up my arm. This is actually a small tick bomb, as a big one can look like mud on your hand, the tick mass is so large. Can you believe I had the presence of mind to stop and take a picture before I washed those mother fuckers off? I can’t.

When this happens, we call it a Tick Bomb, as in, “Mom! I just got tick bombed!”

If you don’t get the ticks off, they bite in, leaving tiny, blister-like bites that itch for weeks, months even. Seed ticks supposedly are too small to spread Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, so there is that in their favor I guess. I don’t know—if someone introduced me as “At least she doesn’t carry any major diseases,” I don’t think it would be a huge compliment. Just saying.

When we were looking at this land to buy, we hired a semi-realtor dude to come out and handle the paperwork for us. He came out to walk the land with us with the seller’s realtor—I guess this is normal, like having your lawyer present or something. Anyway, we warned him about the ticks. We told him to take preventative measures. But he totally dismissed this and showed up in slacks and loafers. He later told me that no amount of money from the sale of that land could make up for the torture-by-itching that he experienced from all the tick bites he got on that walk.

So what ARE preventative measures? Well, some people use the chemical method, some people use the barrier method. For the ticks, I mean. For example, people try to keep the ticks away with tall boots, sprayed down with poisonous toxins. This can do all right, unless you get ticks on your arms. And if you spray your whole self, there you are, covered in poison. No thank you. Other people say to tuck in your clothes tightly, putting your pants into your socks, that sort of thing, in an attempt to keep the ticks on the clothes and off your skin. They they toss the clothes in the washer. But I’ve seen ticks come out of the washer alive (obviously they are the scourge of the earth, a mix of nuclear waste and the Undead), and one or two or ten always seem to get through anyway and bite you in the armpit, or along the elastic of your underwear. I HATE that.

Here’s a weird one: I used to put a super thick layer of lotion or vaseline around my ankles. The ticks couldn’t climb any higher than the lotion (they would get stuck in it) and I could just wash my feet after the walk and be done with it. I did this until one summer I got about 200 bites on my left foot and decided even localizing the torture wasn’t good enough.

What to do?

The first thing is when you see this:

Don’t Panic!

And the second thing to do is pull out some TAPE.

Because look:

Tape pulls those ticks right up! I’ve gotten tick bombed so bad at times that the tape has been wall-to-wall ticks. DISGUSTING! We NEVER go on walks in the woods around here without tape.

Look at what the macro feature on my camera does to that tape:

Can you see their evil little legs??? They are about the size of the head of a pin. Smaller. There have been a couple of times where we have been out on a walk and forgotten the tape. Someone gets bombed and we just run for the yurt, yelling. It’s pretty funny. “Tick Bomb! ARRRGGGG!!!” We make a joke about it, to stave off the horror and panic. And I buy lots and lots of tape. It never hurts to have extra.

You can pop seed ticks between your fingernails if you’re feeling vengeful, or you can burn the tape, maybe, and maybe do a little victory dance around the flames.

I knew a gal who lived a couple of miles from here who thought she had a spider infestation in her carpets—you could run your hand across the shag and a little hail of tiny bugs would spring up out of them. SEED TICKS. The exterminator was so grossed out he went home to take a shower. She was from the north and had never seen ticks before. Her dogs had brought them in. NASTY. Don’t worry, every one lived. And they didn’t even have to burn down the house.

Moral: don’t give up walks in the beautiful woods. Don’t live in fear! Just don’t leave home without your tape.

Finally, although this post is about ticks, look at what a yellow jacket did to little Sophie’s hand:

Poor baby! It swelled up so much she couldn’t make a fist. Mean old yellow jacket.

There are a few advantages to living in town. Not getting Tick Bombed is one of them.

ETA: There is quite a discussion in the comments section on this post. Including a longish reply from me that talks about how to get them off, once they have bitten in. Scroll down to find it—look for the bold print if you don’t want to read the other comments—especially if you’re googling because you’ve got ticks on you and you are freaking out. :)

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266 Responses to seed ticks: the devil’s spawn

  1. Tom says:

    The reason that tick larva (aka seeds) do not contain or transmit diseases is because they have not had the opportunity to contract a disease yet. Ticks feed only once during three of their four life cycles (larva, nymph, & adult). It is during these feedings that ticks contract or transmit diseases. As a result the larvae that have latched onto you are attempting their first feed.

  2. Miriam says:

    Some pathogens can be transmitted transovarial though, which means from the mother to the egg and hence the larvae. But the percentage of larvae which get infected by the mother is very low

  3. jan says:

    windex spray will get them off and kill them. now if i could just find a cure for the itch i would be a happy camper

  4. maya says:

    sounds like the guy from My Big Fat Greek Wedding… :)

  5. Dana says:

    Thanks so much for the info as well as the giggles. My Yorkie always runs in to the field next door to do his business & go for a run with our Blue Tick (that’s ironic). Several times I have found little poppy seed like bugs on my bed. I guess they have been on my dog long enough to feed & drop. I never see them on the dog, just the ones on my bed. your info has cleared up my confusion as to why the ticks are not on my dog but all over my bed.

  6. Ardoe says:

    I woke up this morning crawling with seed ticks on my face and in my hair. One of my kitties came in and decided to cuddle. He’d just come in from outside here in the Ozarks. I was in the showe before I was really awake! I don’t like winter but am already longing for it! :)

  7. Dudley Stamps says:

    Itching Tick Bites!
    My Doctor prescribed some Meloxicami/Lidocaine/topiramate Cream in a strength of 0.3/5/3 % mixture for my Chronic Back Pain. It is worthless for my back pain but I found it to be very beneficial for relieving the terrible Itching Pain for most any Insect bite, especially those Nasty worthless Ticks form Hel! I awoke a couple of days ago with one of those Low life SOB’s on the tender web between one of my fingers! If I had not had this Lidocaine Cream I would have scratched and rubed my skin completely off! Get your Doctor to precribe some for you. You get 2 pump bottles of it with about the volume of an under arm deodorent container! This will be enough to last you and your Spouse for years for it only takes a very small amount to stop the Itching and it really works Great! It only last for about 30 minutes or so then you must apply more but I do not think I will ever be without any of it ever again!
    Here in Georgia I pick off Hundreds of the large ticks year
    and probably a Thousand of those Nasty Seed Ticks!

  8. kathy lee says:

    the tape is a winner i take duct tape and turn it inside out putting the sticky part on the outside. i tape this around my ankles, and as high as my calves. it acts like a fly paper of sorts. every tick chigger that brushes my legs get stuck to the tape and never make it to my skin.i dream of panty hose made of tape to put on and then peel the back off and expose the sticky. right noe my ankle look like i have a disease from the bites,where i went for a run on my trail and was out of duct tape. pepperment oil and cloves work great!!and are organic. thats what i spray on my yard and it doesn’t kill the toads. it the vets best brand i get it at petco. seed ticks have almost caused me to sell my land and move back to the smokies where we never experienced very many ticks. in dunlap which is north of chattanooga, and some mountains in n.c are the perfect altitude for breeding ticks. i also get huge bags of canning cloves and sprinkle them heavily on my yard. when it rains it really smells nice!and the ticks will evacuate the area. my next feat is to grow mint and cloves all thru my woods. i also buy benadryl spray in a small pump bottle. this really works better than anything. except it puts me in a sleepy comatose state. another thing i do is soak in heavey hot epsom salt water . it draws the poison out of the bites. it is a daily war in august and september. i have pray to GOD, GOD you created these pests ,please tell me how to battle them, he then said grow the mint and cloves. which i am going to try. GOOD LUCK!!

  9. Daniel says:

    Red pin-sized bugs are chiggers not seed ticks!

    Was recently tick-bombed so found my way to this page, but found someone in the comments referring to a “tick-bombing” by tiny red bugs. Chiggers!

  10. barbie says:

    another good way to quickly get rid of seed ticks and kill the little beggars at the same time is to rapidly rub your skin. The heat from the friction along with the physical action of rubbing takes care of them. Unfortunately doesn’t work if they have gotten into your hair. I once had my two year old with seed ticks all over her scalp. Yikes!

  11. Terrijo says:

    Pure white vinegar…spray yourself…let it dry. After it air dries the itch will be gone. Just don’t start scratching again

  12. Becky C. says:

    We just came back from a trip to the country to visit my husband’s parents. We’re used to doing tick checks, but not like this! My son totally got tick bombed! Poor guy itched so bad. I’m glad to know he shouldn’t get sick. And for the itching? Essential oils! Mix lavender and malaleuca and rub on all the bite sites. You can add some baby oil or coconut oil to make it spread easier if you have a big area to cover. Within like 2 minutes he hardly itched AT ALL. Now I just have to fight off the heeby jeebies every time I get an itch for the next week. Blahahaugh!

  13. Lester S. says:

    Five days ago if I’d been queried for the definition of ‘tick bomb’, I’m sure I’d have been more glib than I am today having met one on the Elizabeth Isles of Mass. I didn’t know such a thing existed when I went traipsing through a blackberry patch. I didn’t see them until too late, nor did I realize their evil colonization plan. Today my body has approximately 500-plus bites in every, and I do mean, EVERY conceivable location. One wonders if they didn’t democratically divide my body up before sallying forth at warp speed to bite and conquer. And now, I am a human itch. I can’t think beyond the itching. Perhaps someone has some advise before I pull the skin off my body?

  14. nick denner says:

    GOT TICK BOMBED 2 DAYS AGO!!!! MY FRIEND AND I WERE WALKING IN THE WOODS LOOKING FOR SOME NICE HUNTING SPOTS AND HE STARTED ITCHING. WHEN WE GOT HOME HE HAD TONS OF LITTLE BLACK SPECS ON HIM SO I DECIDED TO LOOK ,MYSELF OVER AND TO MY SURPRISE I WAS NOT ITCHING AT THE TIME BUT HAD THEM ALL OVER MY LEGS AND ARMS. THE WIFE PULLED THEM AFF FOR 2 DAYS STRAIGHT AND NOW THE ITCHING JUST SUCKS…LOL. NEVER HAD THIS HAPPEN BEFORE. yes all in caps cus this sucks…lol, oh poison ivy itch cream works good, can still feel a little itch but not as bad. i will try the white vinegar…thanks

  15. Ann says:

    Thanks for this article. Just got back from church picnic and found my 2 littles covered from the waist down. Smallest had them as high as his neck. Hubby and myself also had them. I could tell they were ticks ( hubs thought chiggers) but had not heard of seed ticks. Absolutely awful. Devil spawn is right! We bathed the smalls and scraped them clear and hubby and I doused ourselves with Off and then scrubbed a layer of skin off to get the poison and the – now dead- vampires. Sprayed couch and purse too. We live backed up to some woods but don’t wander in it and none of our animals seem to ever have had this. We are never going it picnic again without cedar oil,skin so soft, and biohazard suits!!!

  16. Suzanne says:

    I’ve been sitting here dying laughing!!! Laughing at your witty article and dying because MY ANKLES ITCH SOOOO BADLY!!! I got tick bombed this weekend while out in the woods geocaching. Not my first time but I never saw/felt them until I woke up at 5 a.m. With both feet/ankles itching so much I could tear my skin off. I also just realized that since I didn’t initially see them, they could be in my car and my bed! At any rate, thanks for getting me to laugh through my excruciating itching!!!

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