Monday, April 27, 2009

Season of Ticks

Yeah, I know...disappear for a long time, then flood you with my chatter in one day.

It's tick season. At least it is here. After not really dealing with many the past 2 years, they are coming back with force this year it seems ;o( We have them daily...between ourselves and the animals, we spend alot of time just tick picking it seems.

Obviously, you don't want a tick left on you. Down here, we have an abundance of those barely-see-em sorts of ticks. LOL....not that I'd prefer a larger tick, mind you, but still, those tiny teeny ticks are a big nuisance just the same. At least the larger ones can be more easily dispatched.

I was amused by the article I read on a group about vaccinating wildlife to prevent the spread of Lyme Disease. LOL....vaccinating wildlife. I'd love to see that in action. The Yale School of Medicine did just that -- they trapped and vaccinated 1000 white-footed mice.

Ahh, grant money at its best.

The Ancient Tick was rather amusing as well:
Carios jerseyi is an argasid, or soft tick. The tick, estimated to be anywhere from 90 to 94 million years old, was fossilized in its larval stage. Entomologists know more about hard ticks (or ixodids) because of a more extensive fossil record. Still, the age of the oldest hard tick on record is a mere 35 to 40 million years.
See the pitfalls of evolution at work in that one.

Ok, Lyme Disease in a nutshell:

Research in the eastern United States has indicated that, for the most part, ticks transmit Lyme disease to humans during the nymph stage, probably because nymphs are more likely to feed on a person and are rarely noticed because of their small size (less than 2 mm). Thus, the nymphs typically have ample time to feed and transmit the infection (ticks are most likely to transmit infection after approximately 2 or more days of feeding).

Tick larvae are smaller than the nymphs, but they rarely carry the infection at the time of feeding and are probably not important in the transmission of Lyme disease to humans.

Adult ticks can transmit the disease, but since they are larger and more likely to be removed from a person’s body within a few hours, they are less likely than the nymphs to have sufficient time to transmit the infection. Moreover, adult Ixodes ticks are most active during the cooler months of the year, when outdoor activity is limited.

Ticks search for host animals from the tips of grasses and shrubs (not from trees) and transfer to animals or persons that brush against vegetation. Ticks only crawl; they do not fly or jump. Ticks found on the scalp usually have crawled there from lower parts of the body. Ticks feed on blood by inserting their mouth parts (not their whole bodies) into the skin of a host animal. They are slow feeders: a complete blood meal can take several days. As they feed, their bodies slowly enlarge.


When out of doors several precautions can minimize your chances of being bitten.

  • Tuck your pant legs into your socks and your shirt into your pants.
  • Wear light colored clothing. Dark ticks are more easily spotted against a light background.
  • Inspect clothes often for ticks. Have a companion inspect your back.
  • Apply repellents according to label instructions. Applying directly to clothing appears to be most effective.
  • Upon returning to the home remove clothing and wash or put it in the dryer for 30 minutes to kill any ticks.
  • When you get in from the field shower and inspect your body thoroughly. Especially check groin, navel, armpits, head and behind knees and ears. Have a companion check your back, or use a mirror.
  • Inspect children at least once daily for ticks. When in heavily infested areas inspect children every three to four hours.
  • When hiking stay in the middle of trails. Do not bushwhack.
  • Clear brush from around your premises and keep grassy areas mown.
  • Avoid plantings that especially attract deer and other animals.
  • Limit watering of lawns.
  • Judicious use of environmental insecticides to kill ticks may be necessary in some areas.

  • We have, in years past, when the ticks were really heavy, and our land was still rather "bush" like instead of usable space, sprayed the clothing we wore with a DEET spray of at least 23%. I don't like chemicals one bit, I really don't like DEET at all, but we had to do something here when we first moved in. They were bad -- I swear, they might say they don't ambush you and jump on you as you pass, but we were plain covered up in ticks here! They seemed to literally fall out of the sky on you when you dared to step outside.

    Luckily it's much better now. Now our biggest issue on the homestead is fleas. Out of the frying pan and into the fire as it were. We try to prevent as much contact with either as we can, but there is only so much you can do, and none of it is really preventative.

    Before venturing into tick-infested territory, you used a topical repellent on exposed skin and outer clothing. When you returned, you did a body check and threw your clothes in the wash. But clean clothes may not be tick-free clothes.

    When he found a live lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) on the agitator of his washing machine, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) entomologist John Carroll decided to find out how tough ticks are. So he bagged up nymphs from two species—the lone star tick and the deer tick, (Ixodes scapularis), the creature that transmits Lyme disease—and put them in the washing machine.

    Carroll used a combination of water temperature settings and detergent types to wash the ticks. The majority of lone star ticks survived all the water-detergent combinations with no obvious side effects. Most of the deer ticks lived through the cold and warm water settings as well. But when one type of detergent was used with a hot water setting, only 25 percent of the deer ticks survived.

    When it came time to dry, all the ticks of both species died after an hour of tumbling around at high heat. But when the dryer was set to "no heat," about one-third of the deer ticks and more than half of the lone star ticks survived.

    Carroll placed the ticks in mesh bags, which kept them from draining away during the rinse cycle and perhaps increased their odds for survival. However, ticks might also survive a sudsy interlude by sheltering in the folds and crevices of a typical load of laundry. Some tick species have been observed to survive hours of submersion in fresh water.

    Both adult ticks and nymphs can transmit disease. Carroll’s research reinforces recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to wash and dry clothes at high temperatures after spending time in areas known to harbor ticks.

    Tick-borne illness is neearly 10 times more likely in children between the ages of 5 and 14 years old. In 1991, fewer than 10,000 cases of Lyme Disease were reported. The numbers now go well over 20,000 annually. Gee, that's over half my family here.

    What about location? Seems most regions are good breeding grounds for the complete cycle of ticks, thus higher rates of tick-borne illness, such as Lyme Disease. The Midwest it seems is the better area. The cycles are closer together, and there isn't enough time for diseases to sustain in the tick.

    I need to move back up north it seems :o) I knew the bugs weren't as vicious up there!

    Some more notes on ticks and some somewhat-preventitive measures:

    Daily tick checks (self examination for ticks)

    Use of repellent containing 20 percent or more DEET

    Selective use of insecticides that target ticks

    Avoidance of tick-infested areas.

    Removing ticks within 24 hours of attachment greatly reduces the likelihood of disease transmission.

    Tick populations around homes and in recreational areas can be reduced 50 to 90 percent through simple landscaping practices such as removing brush and leaf litter, and creating a buffer zone of wood chips or gravel between forest and lawn or recreational areas.

    The full report, "Lyme Disease - United States, 2003-2005," appears in this week′s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (June 14, 2007) and is available online at

    Additional information about Lyme disease can be found on the CDC website at, and about other tick-borne diseases at

    1 comment:

    Dawn said...

    Hi Deannna, its good to see you back. Although this time of year can be very busy, I know we are. Anyway, this may sound a little dumb on my part, but do your chickens help with the tick problem at all? Here in Indiana we don't get a lot of ticks unless you really get into a wooded area that stays moist. We are in a Northern part of the state also with a shorter summer which probably helps with ticks also. I have also heard that sulfur will help repel ticks naturally. I have seen some chewing on the head of a match, but I don't think I would want to go that route. Good Luck and keep writting. I enjoy your view of things and your wit in writting about them


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