Ticks with Tricks | God's World News
Ticks with Tricks
Science Soup
Posted: September 01, 2023
  • 1 Flying ticks
    Ticks can use static electricity to zoom through the air. (Sam England via AP)
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    Stephen Rich studies bugs. He explains that ticks are ambush predators. (Handout)
  • 3 Flying ticks
    Ticks wait on a branch or blade of grass with legs outstretched. When a person or animal gets close—ZOOM! (123RF)
  • 4 Flying ticks
    Deer ticks like this one can carry Lyme disease. People with this disease may have fatigue, rashes, and pain. (AP/Victoria Arocho)
  • 5 Flying ticks
    Robert Terwilliger, right, participates in a Lyme disease vaccine trial. Lyme is a growing problem. Scientists and doctors look for ways to treat and prevent it. (AP/Gary M. Baranec)
  • 1 Flying ticks
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  • 3 Flying ticks
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  • 5 Flying ticks


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This tick is hungry for blood. New science shows it uses some slick tricks to get what it wants.

Zoom! The tick leaps through the air. It doesn’t propel itself. What does? Static electricity. Or, should we say, sta-tick electricity?

Humans and animals naturally pick up static charges as they go about their days. Those charges give ticks a boost. Then, bingo! Ticks latch onto people, pets, and other animals.

Granted, to a human, the electric boost looks little. But it’s giant for a tick. “It’s the equivalent of us jumping three or four flights of stairs in one go,” says study author Sam England.

Ticks can’t jump or fly. They hang out on a branch or blade of grass with their legs outstretched. (In the science world, this is called “questing.”) They wait for people and animals to walk by. Ticks are “ambush predators,” explains Stephen Rich. Mr. Rich is an entomologist—a bug studier.

At first, scientists thought ticks could go only as far as “standing on their tippy toes” would let them. But now scientists are learning that static charges may expand their reach.

The researchers looked at a species of tick called the castor bean tick. This bloodsucker and its cousins can spread diseases, including Lyme disease, to animals and humans.

Researchers charged up electrodes and placed them near young ticks. The creatures whizzed through the air to land on those electrodes. Static, it turns out, can pull the critters across gaps of a fraction of an inch—just enough to get a tick to its victim.

What can people do with this new knowledge? Maybe in the future they could find a way to shrink the static.

But for now? Bring on the bug spray.

Why? Scientists study the world deeply to learn how people can live with animals well.

For more about critters that use static and wind to travel, see the baby spiders in Charlotte's Web by E.B. White in our Recommended Reading.