Embedded Tick Removal

Author: Gabrielle Marks

Ticks seek out a food source in a process called questing. Stimulated by heat, motion, and carbon dioxide, ticks will rest in low-lying vegetation awaiting a food source to happen by. They do not jump onto their host, but rather sit with front legs extended awaiting an opportunity to grab hold of something passing by.  The tick will then begin feeding on the host for days or even weeks depending on the species of tick and will grow from 200-600 times its normal size.

The reason that a tick is very difficult to remove once it has attached to its host is due to the manner in which it feeds.  The tick is equipped with a mouthpart called the hyptosome, that have backward projections that once injected beneath the host's skin make it difficult to pull out.  Many tick species also inject a cement-like substance to keep the tick firmly in place.

Safe Embedded Tick Removal

  1. Clean a pair of pointed tweezers in rubbing alcohol.

  2. Grasp the tick with tweezers as close to the head and mouthparts as possible.

  3. Firmly but gently pull the tick straight out without crushing it.

  4. Wash the area with soap and water.

  5. If the embedded tick does not fully detach, call your physician.

Do Not . . .

The use of any foreign substance such as Vaseline®, nail polish remover, or matches will traumatize the tick and may cause it to defensively regurgitate its gut contents.  The gut contents of a tick can contain the bacterium responsible for Lyme disease.


Works Cited

Deparment of Entomology, University of California, Davis.
Tick Biology

Mayo Clinic
Tick bites: First aid

The University of Rhode Island
Deer Ticks

Expert Opinion 

Quote: "The rough hypostome has many beak-like projections on it. This is the structure which plunges into the host's skin while feeding. The backward directed projections prevent easy removal of the attached tick. In addition, most hard ticks secrete a cement-like substance produced by the salivary glands which literally glues the feeding tick in place; the substance dissolves after feeding is complete."

Source:   Vredevoe, Ph.D, Larisa . "Background Information on the Biology of Ticks ."
Deparment of Entomology, University of California, Davis. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2011.


Questing: The act or an instance of seeking or pursuing something; a search

Host: The animal or plant on which or in which another organism lives

Ectoparasite: a parasite that lives on the exterior of its host.

Hematophagia: subsisting on blood

Hypostome: an appendage on the ventral aspect of the oral opening of some insects and arachnids


The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. Print


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"Embedded Tick Removal." Sophisticated Edge. N.p., n.d. Web. . <http://www.sophisticatededge.com/embedded-tick-removal.html>.  

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