Asked September 22, 2020, 9:41 AM EDT

Several days ago my daughter called me into her room and pulled back her bed sheet and said “what are all these tiny little dots? They look like some kind of insect!“ So I picked some of them up and looked at them under a magnifying glass. At first I thought they were a tiny beetle. I could not find a photographs anywhere on Google images of the exact same thing. But after hours of looking online, I now think that these were some form of tick or “seed tick.” The weird thing is that we had never had ticks in the house before, and there were perhaps 30 or 50 or 100 of these similar sized tiny insects between her sheets! We do have a dog and two cats and they often sleep on her bed but also on my bed too. We took her sheets outside to shake them off and then ran them through the laundry and vacuumed and mopped her room carefully and also cleaned the dogs bed. Oddly enough no other ticks were found in the dogs bed or in my bed, Or anywhere else inor anywhere else now. IIt was particularly concerning because we have a toddler in the house too. It seems a great mystery why so many were found in one bed and so far nowhere else! For making the mystery more puzzling is the fact that we found no bites on my daughters legs or body even though she was sleeping on top of literally dozens of these insects. First I would like to know what these were And secondly, learn how nearly 100 of them would appear suddenly overnight in the sheets of one bed, and so far, nowhere else. And like any advice on preventing their return. Since then, we have put flea collars on all animals and have closed our bedroom doors so they cannot jump up on our beds . Although my daughter wants to allow them to return to sleeping on her bed . I am considering some type of anti-tick and flea treatment for the backyard where we for let pets out often. I have attached photographs of what I found. One of the photographs is of the chick looked at from the top and above. The other is looking at the underside of the insect. Thank you very much for your help. Ed Wilson

Anne Arundel County Maryland

1 Response

Hello Ed,

These do appear to be ticks - perhaps larvae or nymphs, given their size; we can't see them clearly but realize that taking photos of something so small is difficult. Since they have clearly fed - they are engorged - we suggest you contract both your/her doctor and your vet, since we do not know the ticks' origins (your daughter or one of the pets). Despite the lack of bite symptoms on your daughter, they could have been on either her or a pet (or both); not all people develop tell-tale rashes or other visible symptoms. Having either the medical office or Maryland's tick ID lab determine the species of tick will help to narrow-down which potential diseases it can vector and therefore what preventative measures should be taken. Flea collars for the pets may not work on ticks - you'd have to check the product information - but make sure you are not using dog collars on cats or vice-versa or they will be ineffective (at best) and directly harmful to the animal (at worst); such medications are not often cross-compatible.

Someone (human or pet) must have wandered though a "nest" of young ticks (probably 1-3 days before discovering the ticks), picking up this group on their skin/clothes/fur. After ticks feed on a host (once), they drop off to molt; they do not feed again until this has occurred. This is why they are all appearing at once - they have fed for a day or two and are now falling to the ground to seek shelter and molt into the next life stage before being ready to feed again.

Here is our tick page, with links at the bottom for ID services: https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/ticks-maryland. Tips for self-protection as well as around-the-yard control are given as well. Applying a pesticide to the yard overall may harm beneficial insects or other wildlife. At the very least, such treatments may not work on all tick species or work all season long. If treating, using a professional applicator with experience/training in what areas to target would be the best approach.