You've Been Warned, These Clothing Colors Are Tick Magnets

Ticks. The creepy crawling insects just waiting to make a snack of you. These pesky little insects are a pain (literally) to hikers and explorers who dare to tramp where they lay in wait. While things like repellent and long-sleeved clothing are classic anti-tick tips, it is possible that the colors you wear can impact a bug's desire to tag along. If they do decide to hitch a ride, they have a very specific way of doing it. 


"Contrary to popular belief, they don't fall from trees," entomologist and educator Kait Chapman of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln told CNN. "They simply sit at the edge of a tall blade of grass, for example, that's maybe hanging over someplace, and they'll put their front leg out. We call that questing. They will wait for that host to brush right by them, and so that's primarily how people get ticks: They brush by it; it attaches to their leg or their clothes." 

It seems that these opportunis-tick insects show up partly due to luck. Even so, what colors increase the likelihood that you get a questing little tick friend? And is there anything else to be done? 

Dress in white or light colors

Ticks are tricky little arachnids. They can often find a way to wriggle into your clothes or onto your skin, even with the best of efforts to repel them. While the research is slim on how color affects their interest in humans, there is some support that suggests wearing white or light clothing leads to more ticks. A small (10-person) study from the Scandinavian Journal of Infectious Diseases indicated that ticks do indeed favor light colors. 


In the study, participants alternated between light and dark clothing while walking through tick-infested areas. Scientists discovered that people wearing light clothing attracted, on average, 20.8 more ticks than those wearing dark clothing. That said, even if light clothing may attract ticks, it also serves a practical purpose. The Environmental Protection Agency actually recommends wearing light clothing so you can see ticks more easily. 

As there is so little research on the subject, it can be hard to say definitively whether white makes a difference in a tick's attraction. Some say that white or light colors may be appealing because they look like the underbelly of favored wildlife hosts like deer and field mice, although there isn't much science to back up that idea.


Consider permethrin-treated clothing

No matter whether or not ticks are impacted by color, there is one tried clothing type to keep these biters at bay: permethrin-treated clothing. This insect repellent has been used on clothes since 1990 and is the only insecticide marked for such a purpose. Per research by the Environmental Protection Agency, wearing permethrin-treated clothing is unlikely to cause harm to wearers, primarily because the permethrin levels are low. 


"The important thing about permethrin is that once it's dried into clothing via the processes that these various companies use, it is totally safe, but it's very effective against killing and stunning any kind of insect that gets onto it," co-author of the "Canadian Rockies Trail Guide" Brian Patton told the CBC. The clothing is also approved to prevent mosquito bites, which makes it perfect for visiting mosquito-heavy destinations like Florida during this time of year.

However, research from the Journal of Korean Medical Science indicates that the effectiveness of this treated clothing may wane over time. The study concluded that the treated clothing is highly effective, but washing and wearing reduce their effectiveness. Even so, the research also indicated that the treated clothing is a cost-effective and clever way to avoid ticks. You may want to save this tick advice if you plan on hiking a lot this year, especially if you plan to visit any gorgeous national parks for a hike or two, particularly challenging trails that are only for experienced hikers