On the sidebar of this blog, I have installed a tickometer--a gauge of how many ticks I pick off of my body during the year. It's kind of done in fun, but still, I am amazed at how many ticks find my hairy legs. I'm just a tick magnet!!
Most of them are removed before they get some meat, but a few sink their pinchers in and begin their feeding. While tick bites have some potentially dangerous consequences, most of the time, an annoying itch and a small sore stays with you for a couple of weeks.
But get bitten by a tick carrying Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, you're in for a longer recovery time. Symptoms crop up several days to a few weeks after the bite--a red, circular-shaped rash may develop around the bite and flu-like signs including lethargy, fatigue, nausea, fever, headache, stiff neck, body aches, and fatigue, along with arthritis, stiff necks, severe headaches, temporary paralysis, memory loss, mood changes, and sleep disorders.
Now, this is not to say that one tick bite will cause Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever--those are rare occurrences, but one should pay attention to their hairy legs, and nether-regions when trail running or hiking in the woods.
Are ticks bad this year? Some people think that a hard winter kills off the tick population, but after the winter we had a couple of years ago with 3 feet of snow and low temps of -31° in places in NE Oklahoma did very little in killing off the tick population. My tickometer registered over 100 ticks the following spring and summer--the second highest total since I had the tickometer installed. I have a friend who performed an experiment on this, taking two ticks and putting them in a paper cup, filling it with water, and then freezing them. After two weeks, he took the cups out of the freezer and let them thaw. After an hour or so, both ticks were walking around like nothing happened.
Ticks are hardy creatures. Pick one off and try to kill it and you'll find--they are hard to smash. I will toss them into a creek, or into the toilet if I get one home. Smashing them with a hammer works. Putting them in the microwave is also effective--I once put a full engorged tick in the microwave, and 15 seconds later, it exploded. The microwave went in the trash and I bought another one.
I have found that ticks are less active in the super hot months (like last summer and the summer before.) I THINK they are like us--they find a shady spot and chill, waiting for cooler weather. I also think a fire like we had on Turkey Mountain a few years ago killed off a lot of ticks. To the best of my knowledge, I have not picked up a tick running across burnt brass.
But there are places where ticks are very much alive and well, in mass quantities, and ready to feed on any moving creature with blood. Earl Blewett and I ran at Greenleaf a few years ago in mid-March. He had told me ticks were sometimes bad, but we believed we were going early enough in the spring that ticks would not be a problem. We were wrong. About 4 miles into our run, I noticed an army of freckles moving up my legs. We had run through an area where there was a heavy infestation of seed ticks, and we were their food. We would run a 1/2 mile, and stop to pick off ticks, brushing them off by the dozens. After our 18 mile run, we visited the showers in the park and scrubbed thoroughly, and escaped with only a few bites.
I had a similar experience a few years ago at Walnut Creek on the north side of Keystone Lake. I was trying to find some trailz, which turned out to be not so great. But it was great for a throng of eager ticks. I cut my run short, and my dog and I loaded up in the truck and bought a can of bug spray at a convenience store and I sprayed my legs, clothes, and truck down,. and bathed and gave my dog a bath. I probably had hundreds of ticks both of these times--but this was before I began logging them. When a tick latches on, there are many ideas as to the best way to remove them. Old school methods included burning them with the tip of a match, covering them with Vaseline to suffocate them, tying a string around them, tweezers, and even going to the doctor. I think it's good advice be careful especially when they're firmly attached or embedded to NOT pinch or traumatize the tick so it does not regurgitate into the bite. Squeeze them as little as possible. Tweezers may or may not be the best solution. My best advice is to keep a watchful eye, and remove them quickly--with your fingers. Get them off your legs before they have a chance to bite--before they climb up under your shorts--before they get to a hard to find/reach spot. The longer they are latched on, the worse the itch, and the greater probability of disease.
When an engorged pregnant mother tick lays her eggs, she deposits THOUSANDS of eggs.
This mama tick is well fed and ready to lay her blob of eggs.
Disgusting as this is, here are about 1,000 baby ticks waiting to hatch. And they will be hungry.
Obviously, we as humans are not a tick's primary food. The deer tick gets its name from the fact that the deer population keeps them fed. We are able to pull ticks off as soon as we feel them, but I suppose a tick on a deer is there until it dies, of an engorged mama gets knocked off when a deer rubs against a branch.
I do not know the story of the following pictures. Given that the deer is laying on a towel, it is fortunately in the care of humans. Hundreds of blood sucking ticks have completely covered it's eye, biting even it's eyeball. Sad.
Those who HATE SNAKES probably have mixed feeling about this picture. I was surprised that ticks could even bit a snake with their dry scaly skin, but that shows what I know. Ticks will bite anything with blood.
This next picture is disturbing to me--so much so that I probably should have not included it.
This dogs owners should be tossed into a vat of ticks--if the dog actually had owners. This is generations of ticks giving birth, and multiplying exponentially. Friends--please look your dogs over for these blood sucking parasites.
This year, my tick count is at 178 for the year. I picked up 127 Today on a trail run on some new trails. I felt like I was the main course on a buffet line! Spraying with Deet helps, but only a little. Shaving my legs might give the 8 legged critters less to grab onto, but I have not committed to that yet.
Finally, I just HAD to include a movie preview to the 1993 movie Ticks. This classic B-rated flick had Seth Green in a staring role when he looked even more like a kid than he does now, and Clint Howard looking actually uglier than he does in real life. Enjoy.