Occasionally, people find small bugs, about 3/8 inch long, with eight legs, crawling on the interior walls or ceilings of their dwelling. Since these little gray to reddish-brown bugs do not look like common house spiders, wood ticks, or bird mites, people may wonder what they are. Based on the above description, these bugs could be soft ticks. Unlike hard ticks, soft ticks lack scutum (hard plates) on their back, thus the name “soft ticks.” In addition, the head and mouthparts of soft ticks are not visible from above.
Bat ticks are among the common soft ticks that people may encounter indoors. To survive, bat ticks leave the roosting place after bats leave the roost and crawl into a structure seeking blood meals from warm-blooded animals, including humans. Although these ticks cannot develop or complete their life cycle on people or pets, they may attempt to bite. This could be a health risk, as bat ticks are known to transmit disease-causing pathogens, such as a spotted fever group Rickettsia and a relapsing fever group Borrelia (Reeves et al. 2006). Interestingly, these ticks are resilient. They can survive in dry conditions and live for more than two years without feeding (Wegner 2008).
To effectively control bat ticks, locate, destroy, and clean all bat roosting places (even if bats have abandoned their roosts). After that, seal off all actual or potential bat entry points in and around a structure. Applying proven residual insecticides as crack, crevice, and spot treatments to all ticks’ harborage places, including attics, is important, especially when bat ticks are found indoors in a big number. The Pest Management Professional (PMP) even applies a perimeter treatment if bat ticks are invading buildings from outside sources.
Treatment measures for bat ticks are different from hard tick treatments; therefore, a proper identification is critical before any treatment; otherwise, you might just get yourself into unnecessary/failed control efforts. If you have ticks in your home and property, call your licensed PMP for proper identification and treatment measures.
Reeves, W.K., Streicker, D., Loftis, A.D. and Dasch, G.A. 2006. Serologic survey of Eptesicus fuscus from Georgia, U.S.A. for Rickettsia and Borrelia and laboratory transmission of a Rickettsia by bat ticks. Journal of Vector Ecology. 31(2):386-389.
Wegner, G. 2008. Pest Spotlight: Bat Ticks, www.mypmp.net.