Ticks are well equipped to crawl and climb, but they neither can fly (as they never have wings) nor jump. Ticks utilize various strategies to find their host, and these differ depending upon the kind of tick and its stage of development. Some ticks have eyes and other means to sense that a potential host is nearby. Upon detecting a host, these ticks may walk or even run towards the stimulus. Other ticks wait passively for their hosts to contact them directly. They may climb onto vegetation to the height at which they’re more likely to contact their preferred host. Immature deer ticks, for instance, climb just an inch or so above the ground to put themselves in the right range for mice and other small animals. As adults, however, these ticks climb to nearly to knee height where they’ll encounter deer and other larger animals. Once they’ve climbed to their preferred site, these ticks will use their hind legs to grasp their perch and extend their front legs into the air. Those front legs are adorned with small but effective hooks. As an animal walks by and brushes against the tick, the tick is instantly lifted off its perch and can then wander on the skin to locate a place to settle in for a meal.
Ticks may also arrive in our homes as stowaways on our clothing, on our pets or on other animals that may visit our homes. They may be attached and feeding, or still walking about freely on us or on our animals. Those that have not yet begun to feed may soon settle in for a blood meal, or they may be dislodged and wander about our homes. Cats and dogs that jump on beds and sofas sometimes deliver their ticks to where we sit and sleep, and this may increase risk to people. Once it has completed feeding, ticks of most species will detach and drop off the host. Hence, ticks that have engorged upon people or pets may then be found within the home environment. The interior environment of our homes, however, is rarely conducive to long term tick survival. Most ticks will slowly dry out and die within our homes and pose no further risk. The brown dog tick is one exception to this rule. These ticks may arrive home on their dog hosts and survive quite well within our homes. They’ll feed on our pets and on people, and may subsequently attain astounding population densities in a home.