How Ticks Dig In With a Mouth Full of Hooks | Deep Look

How Ticks Dig In With a Mouth Full of Hooks | Deep Look


The hills are alive … with silent, waiting
ticks. Their bites can transmit bacteria that cause
Lyme disease, and other things that can make us very sick. Protected by these palps is a menacing mouth
covered in hooks. First she has to find a host. She can sense animals like us by the carbon
dioxide we give off. She reaches out with her front legs. Scientists call this questing. It will use that claw to latch onto something
… like your sleeve. Now you see her, now you don’t. Once aboard, she searches out a nice spot
to bite into … for blood. She lives three years, but in that time she
only eats three meals. A tick needs enough blood to grow from larva
to nymph, nymph to adult, and then for females to lay their eggs. Gross. Let’s check out a nymph, a young tick. It’s tiny, smaller than a freckle. To grow into an adult, it needs one blood
meal, a big one. The front of its body is all mouth. It digs into us using two sets of hooks. The hooks wriggle into the skin. They pull our flesh out of the way and push
in this mouthpart: the hypostome. Those hooks anchor the tick to us for the
long haul, like mini-harpoons. While the speedy mosquito digs in, sucks our
blood and splits, all within seconds, a tick nymph stays on for days. Three days, if we don’t find it before then. Compounds in their saliva help blood pool
under the surface of our skin. The nymph sips it through its mouthparts,
like drinking from a straw. When a tick is full – and I mean completely
full – it falls off wherever it may be. Maybe onto your bed. That’s if you don’t nab it first. You might have heard that you should twist
or burn the tick. Not true. Grab the tick close to your skin and just
pull straight out. That’s how you win the fight against those
tenacious hooks. Hey! I’m health reporter Laura Klivans, standing
in for Lauren til the summer. This biologist from the California Department
of Public Health is collecting ticks in Berkeley. At this park, only 1 percent of the ticks
carry Lyme bacteria. But in some places, 40 percent can be infected. So make sure to do a thorough tick check after
you go hiking. And when you’re done, check that you’ve
subscribed to Deep Look. Happy trails!