A couple weeks ago, my partner and I were getting ready for bed. I’d been out working in the gardens for an hour or so after work and while I work in them, I spend a lot of time sitting right on my butt in the grass, dirt or gravel.
As is my habit when getting undressed at night, I gave myself a once-over. Well, sure enough, I found a tick crawling up my leg. I grabbed it and squeezed it between my thumb and index finger and dropped it in the sink. Only, it wasn’t there. What?
A moment later, it was climbing up my arm. I grabbed it again and this time pinched it with my fingernails. Back to the sink, I dropped it… only, again, it wasn’t there! What the heck?
This time, though, I couldn’t find it. I finally gave up and went to bed. The next morning when Joe got up, he found a tick attached to his back! Of course, it had to be my tick.
He managed to get it off whole without the huge effort I know many people go through, thank goodness. Just to be on the safe side, though, Joe called his primary care physician and they prescribed an antibiotic.
Thus far this year, I haven’t found any ticks actually attached to me (knock on wood) but have probably had about a dozen crawling on various limbs. Joe’s had about the same amount and our two dogs have probably had 30 or more.
Joe’s pretty vigilant about giving the dogs a monthly flea and tick treatment and you can tell it works because we’ll find dead ticks in the bottom of our youngest dog’s crate. He’s also got a knack for finding ticks on them while they’re still alive despite the long collie fur.
Growing up in the ‘70s, my first exposure to ticks was accompanied by chiggers. While visiting my dad’s family in Arkansas, my sisters and I were warned about ticks and chiggers in the woods and in tall grass. I had no idea what they were talking about.
A pile of old lumber was also quite suspect along with the sternest of warnings about rattlesnakes. Yikes! None of this quite fazed me until we were swimming in a muddy creek with our cousins and a bunch of other folks when suddenly someone yelled out an alert that a water moccasin was headed downstream toward us. Everyone quickly got out of the water for that.
About 10 minutes later they all went back in, but I’d had enough of these strange and seemingly dangerous adventures out in the wilderness of my dad’s home state and stayed on the creek bank, turning over rocks to find crawfish. Back in Vermont and later New Hampshire, we never had to worry about such threats. It was only mosquitoes and black flies that bombarded us and back then, we’d never even heard of West Nile disease, so a few bug bites were no big deal.
Living in Keene for several of my adult years I never once encountered a tick. It wasn’t ‘til moving to Dublin that I started noticing them. Our “warmer” winters seem to be drawing more and more of them on a yearly basis and, according to an article by Amanda Zhou in The Valley News, a staffer at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture said that for us to experience a huge die-off of ticks over the winter, we’d have to experience days of sustained temperatures well below zero and with no snow cover.
This damp spring has been a boon to ticks, and according to “Here Are The Biting Ticks In NH, Number Of Lyme Cases” by Jean Dubail at patch.com, there are four types of ticks found in New Hampshire: American dog tick, blacklegged tick, brown dog tick and Lone Star tick. All four of them can transmit diseases.
The blacklegged tick is the one that may transmit Lyme disease, but none of the other diseases sound too pleasant either. I’d always heard it was the deer tick that carries Lyme here in New Hampshire and they were the very small ticks. The ticks we’ve been pulling off ourselves and the dogs have been larger than I’d imagined deer ticks being.
This particular article doesn’t even mention deer ticks, so I guess, as always, the best approach to handling ticks is prevention. I use a lot of Deep Woods Off with DEET. It seems to do a good job with both ticks and mosquitoes. If you just can’t stand the smell of Deep Woods, both articles also recommended repellents with permethrin along with long pants, tucked into your socks.
Keeping your lawns mowed can also help. Ticks tend to perch on the tips of longer grasses and branches. According to the Patch article, ticks are pretty smart, too. They can determine where humans or other warm-blooded animals frequently pass through a grassy or woodsy area and set up shop right there in large numbers.
So, I guess another lesson here is actually an age-old one: Take the road less traveled. And brace yourself for more southern interlopers. I’m sure chiggers are headed up north toward us soon.
Whatever they are.