This Viral Photo of Ticks on a Poppy Seed Muffin Will Scar You

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(Image credit: CDC/ Twitter)

The CDC is on a mission to save lives and protect public health and safety — and if they have to ruin muffins for everyone to do it, then so be it.

We are in prime tick season right now. In warm weather ticks become more active, and people spend more time in nature, often wearing things like shorts and open-toed shoes. Ticks can carry and transmit serious illnesses like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and the CDC says tick-borne illnesses are on the rise in the U.S. So in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of defending against tick bites, the CDC this week posted a photo to Twitter of a delicious-looking poppy seed muffin that was actually covered in ticks.

I’m sorry to have to be the one to show you this.

The ticks are very hard to find without zooming in on the photo and looking for the poppy seeds with legs. To tell the difference between a poppy seed and a tick, you’d have to take a magnifying glass to every single seed on that muffin. A person could spend the whole day playing, “Is that a leg or a shadow?” with every seed in the muffin before managing to take a single bite.

And one of the best things about poppy seeds is the way they crunch when you bite into them, but now that crunch just seems creepy, not satisfying. Will it ever be safe to eat a poppy seed muffin again? Probably not.

If you haven’t spotted the ticks yet, there are five of them clustered together on the top of the muffin. If you divided the picture into quarters, the ticks are in the bottom right corner of the top left quadrant, but by the time I could see them, the poppy seeds on my monitor were larger than sesame seeds. This is super gross. But it’s also vital information that people need to have, because a lot of people don’t realize disease-carrying ticks can be so small.

According to, most human cases of Lyme disease are actually transmitted by tiny, immature ticks that are smaller than poppy seeds, precisely because they’re so small people don’t notice them. So the CDC had everyone’s best interests at heart when they decided to put ticks on a delicious-looking poppy seed muffin as a warning. But still, people were pretty grossed out.

The CDC apologized for disturbing people with the photo, and reminded them that if a picture of ticks on a muffin freaked them out that badly, they’d probably want to read up on tick bite prevention.

The CDC’s lesson ruined a few bagels and muffins this week, but going viral was the best thing that could have happened with that picture, because now a lot more people will see and remember it. It’s a gross way to make a point, but the good news is that your breakfast pastries are totally fine. The CDC may have gotten into everyone’s heads, but there are probably not any insects in your muffin. That crunch is just poppy seeds — the way it is supposed to be.

Keep an eye out for teeny, tiny ticks any time you go outside, though. A tick on a muffin can ruin your day, but a tick-borne illness is a whole lot worse.