Have you Ever Heard of a Cannibal Tick?

Posted by Mosquito Squad

March 29, 2018

Ticks that feed on each other?! It may sound like the title of a bad horror movie, but it’s actually a real thing! On February 19th a group of researchers from Georgia Southern University, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game published a study in the Journal of Medical Entomology online that addressed evidence of a tick on tick feeding.

Also known as hyperparasitism, this practice is when a parasite skips it’s normal host and takes a blood meal directly from one of its own blood engorged counterparts. As if ticks weren’t creepy enough before, now they are cannibalistic bloodsuckers!

Ticks need a blood meal to grow from one stage of their life-cycle to the next, making it imperative to survival. By skipping the main host and feeding off another tick, the cannibalistic ticks are kind of cheating, aren’t they?

Tick Feeding on a Tick

The group of researchers in Alaska pulled an Ixodes angustus, a hard-bodied tick, from a red squirrel to be studied. This type of tick is found most often on rodents and other mammals in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada and can carry Lyme disease, making them important parasites to be studied.

Hyperparasitism is common on soft-bodied ticks, but the researchers were surprised at what they saw when doing a visual scan of the body of this hard-bodied female tick. There was one male tick attached to the female for the sake of mating, but very close to that was another male… near the female’s head in the “characteristic feeding pose”. Not only was one hungry tick feeding on this female, there were bite marks showing evidence that he wasn’t the first tick to take it’s meal directly from the female. This research provides evidence that tick-on-tick feeding is more prevalent in hard-bodied ticks than was once believed. (The common deer tick is a hard-bodied tick.)

At Mosquito Squad of the Twin Cities, we didn’t need to know that these little bloodsuckers would feed on their own kind to know that they were disgusting! But this is just one more reason for planning your tick control. Our barrier treatment and tick tube system will eliminate 85-90% of the ticks in your yard and help to keep future ticks from ever existing.

With our 100% satisfaction guarantee, you can put this miniature horror plot out of your mind and simply enjoy your outdoor living. Call us today to schedule your first treatment.