There’s nothing worse than returning from an afternoon outdoors and noticing you’ve been bitten by a tick – especially when there’s a one in three chance that tick carries Lyme disease (in the case of adult blacklegged ticks).
If you’ve noticed a tick problem on your property, it might be time to invest in professional pest control. Read on to learn about tick prevention and how to kill ticks, as well as how long stowaway ticks can survive inside your house.
- Ticks cannot survive for long in an indoor environment, only about 24 hours, or 2-3 days under optimal conditions.
- How long ticks can survive without eating depends on the type of tick and their stage of life, which is anywhere from 24 hours to two years.
- Tick infestations are rare, as ticks typically cannot survive long enough indoors to successfully reproduce.
- Ticks are small, round, arachnids and are dark in color. When feeding, they attach to your skin and appear engorged.
- Take steps to prevent tick bites by treating your skin, clothes, gear, and pets and conducting proper inspections. Remove any attached ticks with tweezers and dispose of them in alcohol, in a sealed container, wrapped in tape, or down the toilet.
How Long Can Ticks Live in a House?
Ticks can survive in a typical indoor home environment for about 24 hours. However, certain circumstances may allow them to live a bit longer. For example, ticks like high heat and high humidity, so a tick on moist or warm clothes in a hamper may live for up to 2-3 days. Moreover, a tick that has recently taken a blood meal will survive for longer than a starving tick.
How Long Can Ticks Live Without a Host?
Most species of ticks must find a host to survive through every stage of their life cycle, and it takes them about three years to reach adulthood (their lifespan is about three years, or until adult females lay eggs in their fourth spring). Male ticks die after mating, and female ticks will lay thousands of eggs the spring after mating and die shortly thereafter.
How long ticks can survive without eating depends on the circumstances and species. Some ticks will die if they don’t eat for 24 hours, but the American dog tick can live without food for up to two years.
Younger ticks can typically live longer without food–unfed larvae can survive for up to 540 days, and unfed nymphs can survive for up to 584 days. Cold weather can also impact these critters’ ability to survive. When the temperature drops to somewhere between -2 and 14 degrees Fahrenheit, tick populations automatically dwindle.
Can Ticks Multiply in Your House?
Tick infestations are rare, as ticks usually desiccate (dry up) and die relatively quickly in a climate-controlled environment with low humidity. In one study, ticks exposed to indoor humidity levels died within eight hours.
Ticks usually find their way inside by clinging to clothing, shoes, or pet fur in search of a host, unaware of the inhospitable conditions to come. For this reason, it’s extremely unlikely that multiple ticks will make it indoors and survive long enough to successfully reproduce.
How to Identify a Tick
Similarly to spiders and mites, ticks are arachnids (they have eight legs–although younger tick larvae and nymphs have only six legs). When unfed, adult ticks are dark in color, flat, and teardrop-shaped; when fed, they engorge to the size of a raisin. Ticks are most common in grassy areas uncovered by trees and in shrubby plants like pachysandra, but some can make their way onto pavement or boardwalk-type areas (or even inside by hitching a ride on clothing, shoes, or pet fur–so make sure to conduct a proper inspection after you or your pet has been in the woods or grass).
Tick larvae have six legs and are about the size of a grain. Tick nymphs still only have six legs and are the size of a poppy seed. These tiny young ticks are easily overlooked, so be sure to inspect carefully for them.
If a tick is currently attached to you for feeding, it will look like an engorged, oval-shaped bean on your skin. To remove it, use tweezers and pull upward with a steady, even pressure in one direction. Clean the area and flush the tick down the toilet (or submerge it in alcohol, seal it in a plastic bag or container, or wrap it tightly with tape).
Preventing and Eliminating Ticks
It’s crucial to prevent ticks and eliminate them on sight, as they can spread dangerous tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease, Colorado tick fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Heartland virus. Be aware when you’re visiting grassy, brushy, or wooded areas or petting unfamiliar animals. Treat your skin with EPA-approved tick or general insect repellents and treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin.
Avoid walking in areas likely infested with ticks (like fields of tall grass) and stick towards the center of the trail on long hikes. After coming inside, inspect your clothing, gear, and pets carefully, and shower within two hours. Showering will wash off unattached ticks and give you an opportunity to inspect your naked body for attached ticks.
Check in and around your ears, under your arms, inside your belly button, behind your knees, in and around your hair, between your legs, and around your waist in particular.
If you find an attached tick, use the aforementioned method of removal (pull it steadily with tweezers and dispose of it in alcohol, in a sealed container, wrapped in tape, or down the toilet).
You can treat your yard for ticks using natural tick repellents like cedar oil spray, eucalyptus or neem oil, or diatomaceous earth, or using traditional pesticides or insecticides. It might be worth considering investing in a professional pest control service for tick control to ensure your yard is properly covered. Be sure to treat your pets regularly as well by using preventative pills or topical treatments or a flea and tick collar.