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Tough ticks

Article

Beltsville, Md. - When he found a live Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum) on the agitator of his washing machine, entomologist John Carroll, of the United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, decided to find out how tough ticks really are.

BELTSVILLE, MD. — When he found a live Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum) on the agitator of his washing machine, entomologist John Carroll, of the United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, decided to find out how tough ticks really are.

So he bagged up nymphs from two species — the Lone Star tick and deer tick — (Ixodes scapularis), and put them through the ringer... literally.

After placing the ticks in the machine, Carroll used a combination of water-temperature settings and detergent types to carry out the experiment. What did he find? The majority of Lone Star ticks survived all the combinations with no obvious side effects. Most of the deer ticks lived through the cold-and warm-water settings, too.

But when one type of detergent was used with a hot-water setting, only 25 percent of the deer ticks survived.

When it came time to dry, all the ticks of both species died after an hour of tumbling around at high heat. But when the dryer was set to "no heat," about one-third of the deer ticks and more than half of the Lone Star ticks survived.

Even though the mesh bags might have prevented the ticks from draining away during the rinse cycle, which perhaps increased their odds for survival, the research did show how ticks would fare during a sudsy scrubbing.

It's important to note, Carroll says, that ticks can shelter in the folds and crevices of a typical load of laundry. Some species have been observed to survive hours of submersion in fresh water.

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