Can ticks drop from trees?

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There are absolutely no reputable sources I can find to back up your claim that any species of tick drops from trees. Do you have any?


I’ve had enough instances of a tick landing on my neck or shoulder to know they can drop from foliage. These have all been big ticks and I felt or heard them land. It’s rare, but it’s happened.


Everyone in this area (NE Alabama) knows the lone stars do. It’s always lone stars. There is nothing, and then you feel it land on your arm. They’re called “pine ticks” here by colloquialism because they tend to do this out of pine trees. It’s just…a thing. Like everyone knows it because we all see it. I’ve literally watched it happen to others, and to myself, everyone has seen it. I don’t know any journal articles sorry, its just common being-in-the-woods or growing-up-here knowledge.


So the source is “trust me, bro”, essentially.

I spend a lot of time in the Pinelands and the lone stars attach in the typical way: they hitch a ride when I go through vegetation. Like all other ticks.

“they don’t live in lawns” from that Iowa link bwahahahahahah
It is super common to have guinea fowl to help keep them at bay because we get tired of getting them just walking to our damn mailboxes from our front door. Sure a suburban sprayed lawn they’re not going to be there. Because it’s sprayed and in a neighborhood of everyone who treats the lawns even if you don’t…the woods, nature, is pushed back. That is not the case for the countryside.

The SE we call it hot soup air and ‘the sky sweats’ for a reason. We literally have days at 98% humidity. So the whole “it’s not moist enough not in leaf litter” thing is again moot. Sure, leaf litter, tall grasses, it is worse, but you get them many other places too. See, when a population gets very large, things have to branch out.

Standing still, not touching anything or anyone, not even in grass (on dirt) in the drive, and we watched them appear from nowhere onto the tops of our arms. This happened multiple times that day and many other days and not just that location but others as well - one of them was on concrete in a parking lot under a shade tree but not touching it and standing on concrete. If we move from being under the trees into full sun…no more divebombings. K.I.S.S. :)

I’m super glad no one else has experienced this because it is creepy. I welcome anyone to come down and experience this awesomly creepygross phenomenon during height of lonestar season :) I have plenty of locations I can guarantee it will occur.

Again, I’m not saying this is ‘the common way ticks move’ - this is something that is common in this region during height of lonestar season during periods of high humidity, so about 2-3 weeks of the year.

ETA: Sorry somehow this edited rather than reply to the silly iowa comment that they dont live in grass, not sure how to fix that. My original post said something like "Massive observations of this phenomenon happening in this region is more like it, like how new scientific observations happen, people who live in the region where something different happens they report it! Science Rules! cue bill nye theme


If you google “do ticks fall from trees” you will see that there are a glut of reputable sources that say otherwise. In the hyperbolic sense they sure seem to fall from trees.


Squirrels live in trees.
Squirrels get ticks.


Hi, all, just by way of providing info:

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So you are saying the only explanation that squirrels get ticks has to be that ticks must be present in trees?
Never seen a squirrel on the ground? Do squirrels for some reason avoid bushes and shrubs?


I read it as: ticks attach to animals that ascend trees, so ticks can be found in trees. In all likelihood, some ticks drop off those mammals while they are in trees. But most of those would probably be…sated.


More anecdotal evidence. Once, my friend and I walked under an overhanging tall shrub near Elkhorn Slough and a tick dropped down on her neck. It was hot and humid by the waterway that day.

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Why could it not happen occasionally? Of course, it can be other things. Some biting mites live in trees, but you would not be able to see (nor feel) purposely dropping larvae (you sure will feel it in the course of the next couple of weeks).

When I actually see ticks before the get on me it’s usually on grasses and shrubs waist to torso high (coastal Central California, in particular the Dick Smith, San Rafael, and Ventana Wilderness areas are good places to experience this first hand, if you’re so inclined).

A popular name for ceanothus in California is “tick brush” or “tick bush”. Empirical studies don’t seem to come to a consensus on if ceanothus actually has a higher than standard tick load, but chaparral in general does have a high tick load, so it may be a habitat related issue rather than a species issue.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense for ticks to be dropping down from vegetation. There is a high chance of missing your target, and most large animals that’s going to be roughly waist/belly height on a human, and far lower for most animals (quadruped versus biped). For the most likely secure grab it makes the most sense to be at a height that’s were the largest body part of your target organism is passing by, or the part that’s easiest to grab.

The story often goes that ticks sense your body heat and drop down to grab you (they have poor eyesight). There is a lot wrong with that idea, the main one being that heat takes a while to travel, so by the time body heat reached a tick the organism in question would have already passed by.

Most sources say that the idea of ticks dropping from trees or overhanging vegetation is a common misconception, not a documented fact.

You need to brush against a tick (or have it chase you down, or share a living space with it) for it to grab you.

Deer ticks don’t even have eyes, they have Haller’s organs, which detect C02 and heat emissions, both of which take a bit of time to reach said ticks.

There’s a good, if older publication that provides some insight into the overall tick picture.


What Bouteloua said. I do not think that ticks actively seek out the tops of trees.


Interesting topic about a problem I’m very ignorant of. Since I spend most of my time in the field in the Southwest US, I don’t even think of ticks and to my knowledge have never had one on me here. When I was working in Alabama, I did have an occasional tick crawling on me but I think because I was wading in streams a lot and generally wearing minimal clothing I never got infested.

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Ok - semantic(k)s :smirk:

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lone stars are about the only tick I see in my backyard, even when I’m in suburban hellscape new jersey, albeit bordering a small tract of woods

Have not anectdotally experienced ticks from anything but tall grass, but, still not a fan of batting them off my legs while they’re reenacting shadow of the colossus

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Some spring days, the ticks are invisible but then if you begin to notice them, you find they’re there on the grass stems, front leg pairs out, waiting. Waiting. If you brush by them, they grab your pants leg (or your leg if you’re wearing shorts, but you’re probably not). They crawl up looking for a good place to access a blood vessel while hanging on to something. Your scalp is a perfect place. You don’t feel them while they’re crawling on your clothes. Even when they get to skin, you may barely notice them. When you find them on your head, it’s reasonable to think they jumped there from the trees, but ticks aren’t that coordinated.

I can’t say that no tick ever climbed a tree or was ferried up a tree by an arboreal mammal and was fortunate enough to find prey as it fell off. For most, though, the climb would be a waste of energy when all those mammals are wandering about at ground level.


I’ve experienced ticks dropping from trees during a gusty day in southern Nova Scotia near Kejimkujik. I had sheets of plywood laying flat behind work in the parking lot and you could hear/see them landing on the plywood when the wind picked up. There was no veg around me and the only nearby tick options were from trees ~5m away, I wouldn’t say they were sensing me from that distance but perhaps this was a means of dispersal. I had camped in the direction of where I thought they were coming from prior to this and woke to an abundance of ticks covering my tent zipper in the morning (clumps of hanging ticks…)