Ticks are small pests that attach themselves to people and pets with sucking mouth parts that they use to feed on blood. Ticks are often found on the upper portions of their host's body, which perpetuates the belief that ticks climb up cedar trees and jump or attach to their host in passing. However, ticks are strictly terrestrial pests and do not live in mature cedar trees.
Ticks are classified as parasites due to their reliance on the blood of other animals for sustenance. Most ticks have three stages of development: larva, nymph and adult. Each stage feeds on a different mammalian host, starting with small rodents as larvae and nymphs and graduating to humans and other large mammals as adults. Ticks spend most of their life on the ground, waiting for a host to pass by. They are highly resilient animals and can survive several years without feeding on a host. If they do not find a host one season, they rest under the cover of leaves and forest debris until the next year and try again.
Ticks are found in a wide variety of habitats throughout North America. The specific habitat varies by species, but ticks are commonly found on grass, brush and shrubs. While ticks do not climb mature cedar trees with branches high above the ground, they may be found resting on small saplings, especially if the sapling is located along animal paths or hiking trails. Ticks climb any type of vegetation that is close to the ground and located in areas where they might find a host. .
Ticks are highly sensitive to carbon dioxide, temperature and other chemical cues from hosts. As the host approaches, ticks spread their legs and grasp onto the host as it brushes against the vegetation. The tick then moves up the host's body until it reaches the upper portions of the animal, or an area constricted by clothing when they attach to humans, and then starts to feed. Many people believe that the ticks drop down on their host from cedar trees since they are often found so high on the body, according to the University of Wisconsin. However, ticks do not climb trees and only attach to their host from the short vegetation near the ground.
Ticks can be a problem in home landscapes, but it is not necessary to prune or remove mature cedar trees in order to control ticks. Remove any excess vegetation from areas with dense, low-standing plants, including cedar tree saplings and debris from cedar trees, in order to remove suitable tick habitat. Wear protective clothing such as long pants and long-sleeved shirts and pull heavy socks over the end of your pants to protect yourself from ticks while you work. Several insecticides that contain DEET or permethrin are also effective at preventing ticks from attaching to you when working outdoors.