Do you know what a tick nest looks like? A viral photo has continually popped up on social media over the past few years claiming a clump of egg-like balls is a tick nest.
“This is not a picture of caviar, but a tick nest. Should you encounter…burn it!” wrote one poster who shared the photo, Three Dog Ranch.
Social media posters from Texas to New York have claimed the exact same picture is “local,” and multiple people have claimed credit for snapping the photo.
The cluster of small, gooey-looking balls certainly looks like eggs. But alas, they do not belong to ticks.
Ticks are blood-sucking parasites that feed on animals and humans. There are several different types of ticks, and they can cause a variety of illnesses, including Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Adult ticks only grow as big as an apple seed as adults. In either the spring or late summer, female ticks lay a few thousand eggs in one place, in locations like grass, wooded areas, burrows, or even on a live host.
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Depending on the type of tick, the egg shape can be circular or square.
However, tick eggs are very small — much smaller than those shown in the photo, though they have been compared to caviar in appearance. Tick eggs are texturally similar to the photo, but they are more translucent, and typically have a brown or red tint to them.
“Judging by the size of the grass in the photograph on Facebook, the eggs are definitely not tick eggs. They’re way too big,” entomologist Robert B. Kimsey, Ph.D, who specializes in ticks, told Good Housekeeping.
According to the fact-checking site Snopes, the clump of eggs is definitely not a tick nest. They guess that it may be a clump of frog eggs that were regurgitated by a predator, but they can’t say for certain.
Dr. Kimsey suggests that any eggs you come across are more likely to belong to other insects or spiders.
“Chances are all none of the eggs you destroy over the course of [a] lifetime are going to be tick eggs,” Dr. Kimsey said. “They’re going to be the eggs of slugs, snails, other kinds of spider relatives, insects — all different sorts of things.”Whizzco