This Tick Collection in Georgia Contains Nearly Every Species Known to Science

iStock/Ladislav Kubeš
iStock/Ladislav Kubeš / iStock/Ladislav Kubeš

It doesn't matter if they're wood ticks, deer ticks, or lone star ticks—most people try to avoid the blood-sucking parasites at all costs. But if you're the rare person who's interested in seeing ticks up close, the U.S. National Tick Collection at Georgia Southern University is the place to go.

According to Smithsonian, the collection boasts more than 1 million tick specimens representing most of the 860 known species of the arachnid. The diverse assortment includes familiar names—like the American dog tick, which is active throughout most of the country—as well as more obscure examples like Ixodes uriae—an Antarctic tick that feeds on seabirds. Some specimens are more notable for their unique backstories than their scientific labels: One tick in the collection was removed from Theodore Roosevelt's pet dog.

Unlike some other tick collections, the U.S. National Tick Collection has never stayed in one place for very long. It's had multiple homes, including Montana State University and the National Institutes of Health's Rocky Mountain Laboratories. It was donated to Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in 1983, and it's currently at Georgia Southern University on loan.

Though already massive, the collection is still growing thanks to acquisitions and fieldwork by entomologists. Having a comprehensive catalog of ticks at their disposal allows scientists to study the diseases the parasites spread. In 2018, nearly 60,000 cases of tickborne illnesses, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, and Lyme disease, were reported to the CDC.

Preserved in jars of alcohol and stored in cabinets, the specimens in the U.S. National Tick Collection don't pose the same health threats as their live counterparts. The collection is available for students, researchers, and the public to view by appointment only.

[h/t Smithsonian]