Static Electricity Might Suck Wyoming Ticks Right Onto You

Scientists have determined that static electricity can pull ticks onto people – like a science fiction tractor beam. An expected large population of ticks is looking for hosts after a huge big game die-off this past winter.

Mark Heinz

July 10, 20234 min read

Tick on skin 7 10 23

Ticks are nasty enough as it is, but scientists might have discovered a whole new level of nastiness: Static electricity can pull the little bloodsuckers right to you.

That’s right, your body’s own electrical field can act as a tick tractor beam.

Opposite Charges

It could come down to relatively simple physics, said Scott Schell, a University of Wyoming Extension entomologist.

“As you walk through vegetation, you get friction, and you can develop an electrical charge, and the ticks might develop an opposite charge,” he told Cowboy State Daily.

And so, opposites attract, and ticks can literally be sucked toward warm-blooded creatures, including humans, that have developed a static charge.

The friction needed to develop a tick-sucking static charge might not necessarily have to come from direct contact with vegetation or other surfaces, he added. On hot, windy days, Schell noted that he’s seen static build-up in his horses’ tails simply from the ambient friction in the air.

Perhaps on the bright side, Schell said the study that determined that static electricity can attract ticks was conducted in Europe, using a tick species that’s smaller than Wyoming’s Rocky Mountain wood ticks.

The static attraction “might not work with Rocky Mountain Wood ticks,” or it might work only with ticks in their larvae stage, he said.

More research might have to be conducted on this side of the pond. But if videos from the European research are any indication — showing ticks being sucked across considerable gaps via static electricity — the implications could be disturbing.

Ticks on arm 7 10 23

Might Work For Other Pests Too

The study was conducted at the University of Bristol in England, and it left researchers wondering if static electricity might have the same effect on other pests and parasites, such as mites, fleas and lice, according to reports.

In other words, our bodies might act as electromagnetic parasite catchers.

Experiments demonstrated that the static effect could pull ticks across caps of roughly a couple of inches. That might not sound like much, but it’s considerably farther than ticks could jump on their own, the study’s lead author, Sam England, stated in reports.

"We have now discovered that ticks can be lifted across air gaps several times larger than themselves by the static electricity that other animals naturally build up,” he said. “This makes it easier for them to find and attach onto animals that they want to latch onto and feed from.

“Until now, we had no idea that an animal could benefit from static electricity in this way, and it really opens up one's imagination as to how many invisible forces like this could be helping animals and plants live their lives."

To counter the possibility of ticks, mites and other nasties riding beams of electricity, researchers suggested anti-static sprays as an effective countermeasure.

Wyoming Ticks Old-Fashioned?

Schell said that to his knowledge, Wyoming ticks still prefer to do things the old-fashioned way, by perching on vegetation near hiking or game trials. That allows them to latch onto animals or people brushing against the plants on their way through.

And in parts of western and central Wyoming, huge big game die-off over the winter might have left ticks with a shortage of animal hosts, such as deer. That means they might turn toward humans to satisfy their thirst for blood, he recently told Cowboy State Daily.

Ticks can carry a host of diseases. Perhaps the worst is Lyme disease, which can have long-term debilitating or even fatal effects. Ticks carrying Lyme disease aren’t known to be in Wyoming yet. However, people can contract Colorado tick fever and Rocky Mountain spotted fever from ticks here. If left untreated, Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be fatal.

Mark Heinz can be reached at

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter