Friday, May 6, 2016

Tick season offically begins! Wonderful!

Tick season has already begun down in southwestern Missouri where I make my home, and this year, they are forecast to be heavier than ever!


My goodness! We all have enough to worry about without having to swat these critters out of the air on some fine summer evening! (It would make for a great movie though)! This year, what you do need to think about are the varieties that may carry Lyme disease or the more dreaded Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever! Short of never going outside at all, everyone will need to be very careful to inspect themselves after romping around on their lawns or in our area forests. (Ticks can be found anywhere there are both deer and other small mammals, like mice, and we certainly have enough of both!

Scientifically speaking, our three species of hard ticks are mites with 8 legs, a small plate over their mouth parts, and skin so tough it’s hard to crush one. Adults are 1/16  to 1/4 inch long (about the size of a sesame seed). When engorged with blood, they swell up to about 3/8 inch long and turn gray. Ick!

Hard ticks suck blood, parasitizing mammals, including us humans. They cannot jump or fly but only crawl. Their foraging strategy is called “questing,” where they climb to the top of a grass stem or branch of a bush, hold on with their hind legs, and extend their front pair of hook-like legs, waiting for a likely host to brush by. Ticks sense exhaled carbon dioxide and emitted body odors, as well as vibrations and changes in light, which can alert them to a possible approaching meal. So, if you are a heavy breather and smell bad, be especially careful out there. (Taking a bath once in a while might also help with the ticks and your love life)!

If you are bitten, remove the embedded ticks promptly. You cannot make a tick remove itself; you must pull that sucker out. Use a good pair of tweezers. Lightly pinch the tick as close to your skin as possible (don’t squeeze the tick’s body fluids into yourself). Pull that little bastard straight out. Wash and disinfect the area; then apply antibiotics if you have some around. [Note: If the tick is still alive and you have people around you you don't care for...... just kidding].

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