- There are out-and-in pets carrying loose and wandering ticks inside; –that’s probably the most common way. Followed closely by:
- out-and-in kids, husbands, wives, partners…you get the idea; –ticks riding inside on shoes and clothing worn when outside in tick habitat.
- on gear that’s been outside like backpacks, bags, or blankets;
- on exotic pets, especially reptiles, coming from breeding facilities.
Some people are afraid that they bring ticks inside on their firewood. It’s possible, I suppose, but probably ranks lower down on the list of ways ticks get inside. Spiders and other wood-loving beetles, maybe but ticks, not so much.
I once live-captured a mouse in an upstairs closet that had a 3-day engorged nymph tick attached to it. While that tick wasn’t a risk to anyone inside (because it already had its blood meal from the mouse), it was still kind of a surprise. I’ve always thought that the mice I caught in the house were mostly adapted to indoor life. This one was either an “in-out-in” mouse, or a very recent transplant from outside.
There are probably even rare times that ticks just make it inside on their own 8 legs. American dog ticks, in particular, are attracted to the heat and carbon dioxide emanating from houses, and are sometimes encountered en masse literally climbing the outside walls and screened windows probing for a way indoors. This scenario is generally encountered mostly in the spring, when hungry adult American dog ticks have recently emerged.
No doubt, there are other ways ticks make it indoors, and I sincerely invite you to send us your indoor tick encounter experiences. But one thing we’ve learned by listening to thousands of people sharing their tick encounter experiences is how commonly people underestimate how long a tick has been attached. When they find an attached tick, they may believe it couldn’t have been attached since they had last been outdoors in tick habitat. A common scenario is a self-report of hiking on Saturday but finding the tick on Tuesday or Wednesday, and their being “certain that [they] would have seen the tick” had it really been attached that long. Well, surprise!! Ticks masterfully go unnoticed thanks in part to their tiny size, and compounds in their saliva that prevent pain as they bite and feed.
The next time you find a tick, we encourage you to take a look at our tick growth comparison chart to get a better estimate of just how long that tick was likely attached. It may help you pinpoint the source of your tick encounter so that you’re better protected the next time you go to the same or similar places.