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Spring, unfortunately, means ticks as well as morels. Tick bites are extremely unpleasant, and can endure for months — to say nothing of the fact that ticks can carry some serious human diseases, like Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. Morel hunters should be extra careful, since they spend so much time in the woods.

Ticks have amazing life cycles; some parasitize one host, while others parasitize three different hosts over a span of three yers. They see hosts by "questing".

Questing ticks crawl up the stems of grass or perch on the edges of leaves on the ground in a typical posture with the front legs extended, especially in response to a host passing by. Certain biochemicals such as carbon dioxide as well as heat and movement serve as stimuli for questing behavior. Subsequently, these ticks climb on to a potential host which brushes against their extended front legs.

…in short, they are out to get you!


  • Check yourself thoroughly and regularly for ticks while mushrooming!

  • Check yourself thoroughly for ticks before getting back into the car.

  • Remove your clothes when you return from the woods, and check for ticks. Some people recommend setting your clothes in a white bathtub, where ticks will be easier to spot.

  • Tucking your pants cuffs into your boots and wearing light colored clothing can make it easier to spot crawling ticks.

Ken Gilberg, of the Missouri Mycological Society, writes:

"To keep ticks from crawling up your legs, tape your pants legs and socks together with duct tape. Not only will this prevent some from getting in, you'll have the tape to pick the ticks off later. It's easier to get them stuck to the tape than to try to handle them in attempts to kill them by burning or squishing. Another tip that has changed my life, is to treat pants and socks with Permanone. This insecticide must be sprayed on hours in advance in order to dry and permeate the fabric, but then you are well protected. The treatment will last a week or so even if the clothes are laundered. Thoroughly read the instructions on the Permanone label. It's sold at Wal-Mart, not with the Off! but in the sporting goods section."

Removing Ticks

Use tweezers, and grasp the tick by the head, near the point where it is buried in the skin. Kill the tick after removal by burning it, flushing it down the toilet, or dropping it in rubbing alcohol. (If you are worried about the possibility of the tick carrying a disease, you will need to keep the tick alive by putting it in a sealed baggie with a damp paper towel; this way way your doctor can figure things out better later.) Wash and disinfect the bite thoroughly…

Deer Tick Home Page at Iowa State Entomology
Background Information on Tick Biology at UC Davis Entomology
Tick Removal at Ohio State Acarology
Test of Commercial Tick Removal Tools at Ohio State Acarology
Tick Fact Sheet at Ohio State Entomology

Cited Page: Vredevoe, L. (n.d.). Background information on the biology of ticks. Retrieved December 21, 2002, from UC Davis Entomology Web site:

CMS Editor's note: The most commonly found ticks in Colorado are the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the American dog tick.