This is a story of an animal that is a master of hitching a free ride on you; even if you like it or don’t. I am talking about ticks. With all the challenges with Lyme disease – it’s something that all of us should take seriously.
On a beach in Northern California – I recently encountered an insect trying to slowly crawl on a blade of grass; seemingly towards my foot. Not knowing what I might encounter – I was happy to entertain it for a little and let it crawl on me. But unlike its other unsuspicious hosts; this time the predetor became a prey. I remembered I had a foldscope in my backpack and what would I do sitting on the beach.
So I pulled a slide and picked up the tiny creepy crawly and put it on a slide and put a cover slip and some small piece of tape. Pro tip: I carry my foldscope with a small set of slides, cover slips and a simple roll of tape. I gave my last illumination LED to a kid in a workshop; so I rely on outdoors sunlight or table lamps for illumination.
What I saw was jaw dropping beautiful. Here is a live video of my experience. I don’t need to say too much; since the video tells the whole story.
All the key aspects of tick anatomy are covered in this video pretty well. You can see the blood being digested from a prior meal. You see the mouth parts used for piercing. But the best part – are the little “shoes” at the end of each leg with hooks and pads to really grab on to us for a long period of time.. days sometimes. These are adhesive or suction pads. It’s been mentioned before that they are inflatable – which would be incredible.
Here is the moment I realized it’s a tick.
A simple observation like this can teach us an incredible amount about the physiology and life style of an animal. The capacity to grab on and let go at will on human skin is an incredible virtue for this animal. I was tempted to next image it in reflection mode while feeding on my foot. I resisted my tempetation for another day since I wanted to know what species this is (please leave suggestions below in comments); before I try to do hand blood feeding.
Note:. Several people inquired about the location; its limantour beach.
Pro tip2: I know a lot of students are actively posting data now a days. One suggestion would be is to try to think hard about what is limiting resolution for your images. If they are not as crisp (the video above is taken with a regular foldscope and an iPhone); something is not right in how you built or are using a foldscope. Please look around to make sure you folded your unit perfectly. Read and see tutorial, talk to other foldscope users etc etc.. the more you play with this tool – the better you get. Best of luck.