NatureWatch: Caution, tick season is in full swing


We live in a world full of life, and one that causes me more consternation than a family of groundhogs, a lawn full of moles or a hive of wasps, is the all-too-common tick. Other than a treat for chickens, I can’t think of any value for ticks, especially deer ticks.

An outdoors man I know says, "The older I get, and the poorer my eyesight gets, the more I worry about deer ticks." That’s true for many of us, and I, who had never given ticks a second thought, developed an instant fear of ticks in general, since walking though some tall grass in short pants to get to a tidal estuary in Connecticut some years ago while looking for Aurelia, a common coastal jellyfish.

As we gazed motionless into the clear water of an outgoing tide along a creek, one of the teenagers I was with at the time pointed out I had small blacks bugs crawling on my legs. There must have been six or eight shiny, black ticks of varying sizes on me.

From that warm June day, I have been leery of them, often phobic. I have had no more than a total of three ticks on my person since then that I know of, and attribute that to always applying a repellent when out walking or hiking. I sometimes will wear specially impregnated hiking socks available at some outdoor outfitters, and religiously check for the interlopers when I get home. Apparently, light-colored clothing attracts them less.

There are many different kinds of ticks in North America, and some transmit disease, and while the risk is low of acquiring a tick-borne disease, such diseases can become quite debilitating.

Where deer ticks are concerned, Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) transmission isn’t instant, so the sooner the tick is removed the lower the chances are of acquiring the sickness.

As reported in UpToDate, a respected medical information resource, "Borrelia burgdorferi, lies dormant in the inner aspect of the tick’s midgut. The organism becomes active only after exposure to the warm blood meal entering the tick’s gut. Once active, the organism enters the tick’s salivary glands. As the tick feeds, it must get rid of excess water through the salivary glands. Thus, the tick will literally salivate organisms into the wound, thereby passing the infection to the host."

If a tick is discovered, and is not too deeply imbedded, use a pair of fine tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the mouth parts as possible and gently, but steadily, pull backward. Wash the site with soap and water followed with an antiseptic and kill the beast in alcohol, dish-washing soap, cooking oil or the like. (Save it in alcohol for identification?) Look for any signs of infection or mild sickness that may take several weeks to manifest. If the tick is well-imbedded and you don’t know how long it has been on you, it is best to get medical advice.


Around the yard, discourage deer! Don’t invite them, sweet as they may be. Clean up brush and debris that attract rodents (mice especially).

At least we don’t have fire ants and scorpions to contend with ...

Questions and comments for Thom Smith: Email


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