Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tick Heaven

The Black-Legged tick, hostes scapularis.

Zach Neal

Oh, how I hate ticks.

This time of year, southern Ontario is tick heaven.

In Huron County, ticks have been confirmed to be carrying the virus that causes Lyme disease.

So far this year, I have pulled at least a half a dozen ticks off my legs. Yesterday, I went for a walk. Sticking to the centre of a groomed trail might be one thing, but the second you step off onto a side trail or into long grass, the little bastards are all over you. The one day I was wearing shorts, and walking at Wawanosh Wetlands. I sprayed my shoes, socks, bare legs and shorts with insect repellent. (For mosquitoes, you want to do the upper parts as well, including the back of the neck and the elbows, anywhere you can’t see them.)

That seemed to work. The next time, (back to yesterday). I was wearing jeans. Two minutes off the trail and I had four black-legged ticks on my pants. The ones you can see, you can remove. Last year, the things kept turning up in my car, in my house, my bedroom…

They’re riding home in amongst your shoelaces, or on the back of your sweater when that happens. There’s nothing better than finding a blood-engorged tick on the rug, or pulling them off of you and finding a blood-spot.

The tick has to be on you for a minimum of twenty-four hours. I took them off pretty damned quick. It always sucks. Last year after being bitten twice, I went to the doctor and got tested for Lyme disease. The test came up negative, and I was bitten once more last year and at least once so far this year. A yearly test for Lyme disease might be a pretty good idea for anyone that works or plays regularly outdoors.

Ticks are active down to some pretty low temperatures. In the winter, I enjoy walking in the woods. In summer, I tend to avoid it. In the past, that was mostly due to mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile virus.

This year, tick populations are up an estimated 26 % in Sarnia-Lambton. (Observer.)

What really concerns me is that my eyes aren’t too good these days. When I spot a bug in the house, I have to run and find my reading glasses, find it again, kill it and then try and identify it.

In the woods, all you have to do is brush up against a blade of grass or a twig, or just walk down any trail to pick up a tick. I’ve picked them up in German Park, which is in the central city. Today’s tick was picked up in Canatara Park, which is heavily treed, with some brush, and a really nice beach with some low scrub along the shoreline. (The author is in Sarnia pretty often. - ed.)

Once you’ve seen a tick on you, every little itch, every little tickle, every little sensation anywhere on your body magically transforms itself into a tick—and it’s annoying as all hell.

I was wearing my ball cap. Now that I’ve taken it off, my hair is sort of unsticking and lifting itself up gradually…either that or I’ve got invisible ticks all over me.

That’s not entirely rational ladies and gentlemen, but that’s sure as hell how it feels…also, those ticks in the apartment might be coming in from the lawn outside. It’s a short climb, after all, and they are hungry.


(Zach's got a book and some stories on Google Play. - ed.)

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