We think of ticks being a summer nuisance but ticks are a year ’round pest. Even when the ground is covered with snow, they might still live in warmer areas of your yard such as the shrubbery next to your house. We can never be completely sure ticks aren’t active.
We rarely feel ticks bite us, but we might feel them crawling on our skin. They meander through the tiny hairs that cover the human body until they find a quiet neighborhood where they can take up residence. If you have a ticklish feeling on the back of your hand, on your arm, or on your head, maybe it’s just a stray hair, or maybe it’s a tick looking for a soft, secluded place where it can feast on your blood.
Remy, our wiener dog, is a tick magnet. She spends a lot of time outdoors in summer, but she gathers ticks year ’round. When you walk through grass or bushes, ticks are ready and waiting. They’re always ready to attach themselves to a warm blooded creature, and sometimes a cold blooded one. (Even snakes have been known to have ticks.)
Contrary to popular belief, ticks don’t jump on you. They crawl to the end of a stem of grass or a leaf on a bush and start “questing,” or waiving their forelegs so they can grab whatever comes
along. Barberry bushes create a micro habitat ticks seem to like, and provide good cover for host animals. Getting rid of barberry will probably reduce the number of ticks in your yard.
Ticks also seem to like pines and hemlocks. This past spring turkey season I found ticks on myself twice, both times after walking through a patch of pines. It’s a good idea to do a tick check when you’ve been in such areas. I suspect some of the ticks I’ve found on Remy may have been on me when I walked into the house after hunting.
Ticks transmit a number of diseases. Lyme disease (named after the town of Lyme, Connecticut where it was first discovered in 1975) is the one we think about most. Lyme is a bacterial infection that often (but not always) shows a bullseye-like rash around the area of the bite up to 14 days after the bite. Lyme can cause a variety of issues, including arthritis, facial palsy and in rare cases it can affect the heart. It’s treated with an antibiotic, and the earlier the treatment the better your recovery.
In Pennsylvania and New York, we have more than 20 types of ticks. The most common species is the black legged tick, which carry Lyme in addition to other diseases. They are often called deer ticks, but that’s inaccurate because they are transported by many hosts.
How do you prevent ticks from biting you? You can’t, but you can take some precautions that reduce the chances of a bite. Wearing light colored clothing helps because it makes them more visible. Also, wear long pants and tuck your pant legs into your socks so that ticks do not crawl up under your pant legs.
After being outdoors, take your clothing off and wash it immediately. The dryer will kill them. Also shower immediately and do a tick check. In the case of a bite, the risk is lower the sooner you remove the tick, but you have 24 to 36 hours before the tick infects you with Lyme.
If a tick bites you, remove it carefully. Don’t break the head off and don’t squeeze it or it can regurgitate what it has eaten.
Repellants that include DEET and picaridin are safe and effective when used in moderation. Be aware that DEET is a solvent which will affect synthetic clothing and soften plastics. Permethrin is widely used and retains effectiveness when applied to clothing and then let dry. I find that whatever repellent I use is very effective merely by spraying collars, cuffs and hatbands.
While anyone can get bitten by a tick, you increase your chances of being tick-free if take the precautions I’ve outlined.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.