Friday, April 29, 2011
Ticks tick me off
It must be tick season. Lately, we have found several ticks on our clothing and worse, crawling around on our bodies after working in our back yard. It is said that if there are deer in your neighborhood, there will be ticks as well, and we can vouch for that. After pulling up a lot of thistles yesterday, I found this guy on my hand last evening. The second photo is of a tick we found a couple of weeks ago.
These are wood ticks (Dermacentor variabilis), also called dog ticks. These do not carry Lyme disease but have been know to carry other diseases, including rocky mountain spotted fever. Fortunately, it takes them a while to dig into your skin, bury their head and begin feeding, and so far, we have found them before they were able to do damage. Some sources say a tick cannot transmit disease unless it has been feeding for 48 to 72 hours. But they are dirty little bugs and even a slight bite on your skin can cause swelling and redness for weeks after. Yuck!
Notice the slightly longer long front legs on this guy? They will find a host by crawling to the top of tall grass or a low branch, and stick out those front legs. If an appropriate host brushes up against them they latch on with those forelegs. They usually try to crawl up to the neck of the animal before they bite. They will stay on for days until they have had a good meal before dropping off and starting the cycle all over again.
If you look carefully when hiking you can see them on the tips of tall grass blades and avoid them. But be sure to check yourself thoroughly when you get home and shower carefully (or have your partner scrutinize your skin). Wash your clothes too and you'll get rid of them before they bite you.