Static Electricity And Tick Attachment

A common myth of ticks being able to fly and jump to attach to their hosts may have proved some validity as of recent findings. Ticks will engage frequently in what’s known as questing behavior. Questing behavior is different across several tick species, but in general, most species will wait on the top of blades of grass with their legs outstretched until a host brushes by. They will then attach to their host, and remain there as long as possible, or until they are found by humans. 

The University of Bristol has recently discovered that ticks use static electricity to clear gaps of space between them and their potential hosts. This makes their questing more efficient in the long run since they have energy reserves designated for questions behavior, around ~30%. All humans, and animals carry electrostatic charge, this is naturally occurring for animals especially, as they brush against grass and the ground. However, we know now there is an electrical charge that passes between them and the ground. This has been replicated within a laboratory setting by placing ticks on what’s known as a grounding plate. Grounding plates discharge energy into the ground. 

Researchers dragged several objects with charge on top of the ticks. To mimic the static charge of mammals, rabbit fur and electrodes were used that had a voltage of 750V. As the researchers dragged the objects above the ticks they were propelled through the air onto the charged object. The researchers increased the charge and saw even higher lengths the tick was propelled on the object which acts as the hots (us). 

Although ticks do not jump, or fly, the distance they can be thrown into the air is a huge benefit to them. It is equivalent in human terms to 3 flights of stairs! You should always remain vigilant against ticks, especially knowing you are a magnet to the dangerous parasites. Using repellents like permethrin are highly recommended, especially knowing that there is a higher chance of having a tick attach to you. While we don’t know the frequency in which the static charge can cause ticks to be propelled onto their hosts, you should still be aware and perform tick checks on yourself or loved ones in the meantime.