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.


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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277 Responses to seed ticks: the devil’s spawn

  1. I got tick bombed with my girlfriend Sept 1, 2013. We were on a long hike in Mark Twain National forrest near Columbia, Missouri. I have hunted mushrooms for years in N.E. Ohio and have never had a run in with Seed Ticks! I have seen plenty Nymphs and Adults, but nothing like this! We jumped into a clorinated pool asap thinking that would help, washed our dogs thoroughly and showered, got in the hot tub, picked em off each other all night! Still itching here….oh and the poor dogs! What an experience!

  2. Robert a says:

    I am a logger in central nc and also enjoy hunting deer. I have to deal with these pests almost daily. I’ve had so many crawling up my legs you could feel the warmth from their body heat. I never knew they were tick larva I always thought they were just another type of tick. My brother and I have always called them microscopies bc they’re so small you almost need a microscope to see them. I was wondering are the larvae from deer ticks smaller than those from say lone star or black legged ticks since the adult deer tick is smaller? Also I know y’all aren’t really chemical people but some out there are like me and want to be able to walk through the woods without worrying about being eaten alive. in my over 20yrs experience with them the only thing I’ve seen work 100% or pretty close to it for guarding against them is chemicals. permethrin based to be exact. Brands such as sawyers, repel permanon, and duranon make an aerosol spray that work great. If you have sensitive skin I would follow the directions. I use it like I would “off” but just not on the skin. I spray my boots until wet and make sure I get the bottom of my pants legs extra well. I have seen them on my pants after applying but every one was dead. Its wonderful being able to work and be in the woods without becoming a meal for parasites.

  3. gkat says:

    Hello fellow tick bomb victims,
    I have a few quick fixes and one or two long term solutions. We live in southern Maryland and go through intermittent tick bombings yearly. Our own two acres is surrounded by three hundred more, so we can’t escape these vile creatures. We immediately noticed certain areas of our yard continuously became infested,and tried all sorts of chemical and organic treatments. Some worked for the current infestations, but did nothing to stop the next batches when they spawned. After some serious thought it occured to me that perhaps my infested areas were that way because of what isn’t there,hence making it an agreeable place to spawn. I spent some serious time examining those areas of my property that never got any nests. My herb garden was one, my rose trellis, and my picket fence line out front. The only thing they all had in common was MINT! I plant mint in areas that I don’t want to weed whack so as not to damage my other plants. It has been 4 years now, and I grow more mint than anybody! I planted the entire perimeter of our yard densely with all sorts of mint types, peppermint,spearmint,Orange and even chocolate mint. The stuff is glorious andop spreads rampantly. I harvest it often and dry it for future use. Many ingredient labels on all the stuff we tried before had menthol in them, a mint derivative. My yard remains tick free, but there’s still the woods! Enter the dried mint. We bathe our dogs and cat in the tub with a cup of the crushed dried mint every week of the year. Continous use alters their “blood” smell so ticks avoid them. Took the dogs a while to get used to this nice smelling stuff . We were relentless though and they finally stopped trying to roll around in stuff they thought made them smell more doggie. For those of you with animal infestations right now, get out your Vicks vapor rub! Scoop a handful and rub it all over your animal, into their skin, not their fur. Obviously it gets on the fur too, but its the skin that emits their natural scent. If you keep your pets indoors, use an old sheet to cover their sleeping area,not a blanket. The vicks also seems to soothe any bites they already have,scratching lessens. Once ticks are dead give a bath with shampoo to remove the oily feel, and then give them a bath with mint. Mint teabags will do(12 or more) if you have no dry mint. Pure mint extract works for all of us animal and human alike. Mix with water and put in a plant mister and douse your clothing well before your next hike. Spray those pets too, no such thing as to much mint. My house smells like Christmas year round, and so do my pets. You do get used to it and frankly it smells better than my dogs used to at Christmas! One last thing, about that tape…take it up a notch…Double sided tape! Do your shoes, tuck pants in socks and tape them around . Do the same with shirt or jacket cuffs or bare wrists and ankles if its hot out. Mint grows almost year round and comes back thriving, so plant now! Spray tick patches in your yard with mint oil (rain won’t wash oil off) every week until those beasts have departed. Once your mint perimeter has grown you won’t need that weed whacker much anymore either. Any mint that grows out of bounds
    into your grass can just get cut with the mower. Have been clean and itch free for awhile now and can enjoy my little patch of paradise. Try it! Gkat

  4. Kathy says:

    My sister is having problems now with seed ticks. At first she thought she had bed bugs. The bug guy confirmed these are seed ticks. She had starting treating with diatomaceous earth since she initially thought they were bed bugs. Long story short, it appears to be working. This post has been very helpful, these little suckers are indeed the spawn of satan.

  5. Ronni says:

    I just came back from a walk in the woods with one of our dogs. The idea had been to walk some of his energy out before this Dane / APBT’s ridiculous amount of energy caused him to take a flying leap right on the head of a four pound chihuahua. I originally was only going to go walking down the road with him, but the woods next to our land looked so nice, all covered in shade. So in we went.

    I got about half an hour into this little slice of heaven, giggling to myself about my brilliance in wearing out the dog. *tee hee, giggle, giggle* About this time I looked down and noticed an awful lot of pollen on the top of my sandal clad feet. Odd. Didn’t realize there would be so much pollen out in the fall. Hmmm…… *reaches down to brush off pollen, totally freaks out when she realizes it’s bugs*

    Run home!!! No, get bugs off!!! No, run home and then get the bugs off!!! No, bugs might bite in the meantime, get bugs off now! Too dark in the wonderful shaded woods, need sunlight! Gah!!!!!

    Good news is I’m still alive and only have a few bites. I managed to find a sunny spot in the woods to pick them off which was not easy with so many of them, so tiny and NO TAPE!! I got home and hopped on line to figure out what the heck it was and here I am.

    Thank you for a great post. Tick bomb is so appropriate a name!

  6. caity says:

    Ohhh thank you maya and thank you al gore for the internet. Can you imagine how much crazier we’d all feel if we were dealing with this in isolation?? I went for a hike with my dog 4 days ago in St. Francisville, LA, just upriver from baton rouge. On the drive home I started to get the creepy crawlies and then, much worse, I actually SAW the creepy crawlies. All over me and my doggie. After a miserable ride home I jumped in the shower and pulled the dog in with me and threw away or washed all hiking clothes. I thought they were chiggers until i saw them still stuck to my dog just now and noticed that they pop like little bloody water balloons. Now, 4 days later, the itching is miserable but I don’t see anymore live bugs anywhere, not the bed or furniture or on our skin (haven’t since day 1). My dog still has dozens of them embedded in his skin, though, but when I pull them off they don’t move and seem dead… are they?? Should I just let this run its course at this point or am I bound to start seeing more live ones soon? Will they fall off my dog eventually or should I go for the dip (or is it too late?) Either way I’m not going back into the woods anytime soon.

  7. caity says:

    Update… going to the vet for a tick dip as soon as they open. I realize now that these bastards Are alive and presently feeding on his blood. Some are quite big now that I started pulling them off. Weird that I don’t have any on myself though (have checked and been checked thoroughly), just tons of tiny bump bites. Do they not typically dig in on humans?

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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! :)

  13. 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!

  14. 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!!

  15. 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!

  16. 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!

  17. 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

  18. 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!

  19. 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?

  20. nick denner says:


  21. 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!!!

  22. Kristina says:

    Thank you, thank you so much for this humorous article on the very day I found that what I thought were teeny tiny burrs on my child actually had teeny tiny legs. I totally freaked out. Hers had been on long enough (3 days) that they had attached and I had to pull each sucker off with tweezers. ANy advice how to get them out of her scalp? She’s sitting with a basic h2 rinse and a plastic bag on her head (treating it like it’s lice).

    • maya says:

      No need for a plastic bag! You can pick them off, but even if you don’t, they’ll fall off on their own in a day or so, gross, but they aren’t going to spread or breed on the hair or anything, the way lice do.

  23. 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!!!

  24. Margie says:

    Chiggers and seed tick are not the same…..seed tick the demons from hell are totally different than chiggers you find on certain wild flowers

  25. Murphy says:

    We looked at some land in Arkansas – and little did we know – we were tick bombed! When we returned home to Wisconsin, we found a few of these little pests attached in our nether regions. Upon further looking found several of them attached all over the place – and after frantically picking them off, found they had dropped off everywhere around our house – our bed, dogs bed, the couch, the carpets etc.
    Sometime ago we bought a VAPamore steam cleaner, thinking it would be good for cleaning carpets. It really wasn’t (found out later it was more for killing bedbugs, I thought it was a carpet cleaner LOL), but I’m so glad we never sold it, because I have now steamed everything nook and cranny in our entire house, twice, going for a third time today just in case, and I have to report we are no longer finding the seed ticks alive (and no dead ones yet today, wish me luck that I won’t find anymore and will be done). I added tea tree oil, eucalyptus, camphor and lavender to the steam vac water. I’ve also washed everything in hot water and put it into a hot dryer. I put our blankets and the dogs blankets and everything else- pillows, etc. into the dryer at least once a day for 15 minutes on high. I read this will kill them and appears to be working.
    Thanks for all the advice above, will definitely keep tape on hand when hiking in the south, and we already have mint in our garden- so will start bathing the dogs in mint and maybe us too!
    My advice for if they infest your house and you can’t/don’t want to use poisons, get a VAPamore. It’s expensive but now I feel well worth the price. The steam is hot enough to kill the seed ticks and presumably any other pests, if you add essential oil your house will smell great, and the bonus is a really clean house.
    PS: the red itching dots from the bites showed up on us a couple days later, making us realize that I wasn’t going insane while thinking I was getting bitten in bed all night long. I really was. Talk about freaking the fuck out! I hate these things, and you are definitely right, they are the spawn of Satan! Thanks again for the tape idea. (PSS: wrote this on my phone, sorry if there are any weird typos)

  26. Tee says:

    My daughter had to do a mock accident for her fire science class. She was a “casualty” so she had to lie in the tall grass near a lake for about 4 hours or so. She came home with 1 tick or possibly 2 (they were very tiny) and a billion seed ticks. We thought they were chiggers, but they were no red. My aunt said…NOPE seed ticks. Since they were in her hair and everywhere…We took RID, got her hair wet, suds up her entire body with the RID, including hair, Clothing into the washer, then later extra long in the dryer. Vacuumed the floor and swept it good everywhere she was. The after 10 mins, showered off the RID, double washed her hair and scrubbed her body with soap in which I put several drops of tee tree oil. She smelled like an old stump, but no itching really at all. Never heard of them before, but I will certainly watch for them now. We picked off all we could see with tweezers and put them in a prescription bottle in case they were ticks. Worked out well, we know better for the future. Love the article !!! and thank you without it…I would still be thinking they were black chiggers from some weird species of them.

  27. Charlie says:

    Tick bombed for the second time in my life 9/28/2014 in Greene County, Georgia. Same area of property as last year when I got tick bombed. I’ll learn my lesson some day. I looked at my hand and they were all over it. Shed my outer layers and sealed them in a trash bag. I read put your clothes in the dryer before washing them for about 15 minutes to kill them. Death to Ticks!!!

  28. Pat says:

    I HATE seed ticks!!! I noticed this week I kept waking up with bites. Yesterday, after seeing I had a seed tick big enough to attach, I got them off me, cleaned house, vacuumed everywhere, washed all our clothes in hot water, and still woke up this morning with 2 more attached. Today, I have pest control coming.

  29. Traci Sheroan says:

    do seed ticks burrow theirselves in your skin?

  30. Ryan says:

    Wow! I thought we had it bad here in Southern Virginia. I have to deal with tick bombs in the late spring and early summer. However, they are gone by September and getting rare in August. I see some of you have been hit in the fall. Thank God we don’t have that issue. I will say this, ours seem to be more aggressive. You will never make it far in this part of the world after getting bombed without knowing it. These spawns from hades start biting just as soon as they reach skin. So I have never had to worry about them getting in the house unawares. I have lived in this part of Virginia all of my life and we just started getting these spawns about 20 years ago. I know they have always been here in some numbers but as a child growing up in the 70’s we played in the woods constantly and never encountered them. My children cannot approach the woods without multiple bombings today. I blame the increase in the deer herd for the tick explosion.

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