Thursday, June 11, 2009

Inspecticide 2: The Tick Necklace

Its important for me to say that I generally like insects -they are most amazing. I have my favorites and those that I simply would rather not have crawling on me. In my search for the type of red creature this is, I can say I've gotten close: a red mite or a velvet mite, superfamily Trombidioidea. It is a mite, not an insect.

But when I get into it, it's not long before I begin to feel that itchy sensation -like they're all crawling on me. On my Tulip Tree journey, I had my first (aware of) run-in with a deer tick. It looked just like this, climbing up my jeans:

Copyright: Lynette Schimming, 2006

I had been in the woods many times. I had stopped to photo the tulip trees, then my wife wanted to show me the difference between the Trillium leaves and the Jack-in-the-Pulpit leaves (another post). I'm pretty sure that's where I picked her up, the female tick that is. I had sprayed my shoes and knees down with skintastic and a citronella product. Tick did not care and was wasting no time crawling up me leg. I flicked her off.

photo credit: Charles Schurch Lewallen, 2006

Nothing is more gross (well, maybe some things) than a fully engorged tick. Our dog used to get ticks attached occasionally when I was a kid. They'd drop off, you'd see them slowly making their way and slam, pop, exploded blood everywhere.

I haven't been aware of a tick on me since 1995, after a three day stint in Hell's Canyon National Recreation Area. I caught it before it started its meal -on my ass! But that's another story.

When attending college in the Hudson Valley, friends and I used to bushwack relentlessly in the Shawangunks. We tick-searched and groomed like chimps afterward and no ticks ever found.

When I lived in San Miguel, New Mexico, I was alarmed to see armies of ticks marching across my patio in the garden I created, but then even inside the house. The neighbors dog was wearing them like gray pearls. Later I was told that the mice in the area, and the straw in the mud bricks used to construct my building, were quite hospitable to ticks. Still, I never wore one.

But once I got the tick on me pants the other day, I became more conscious of the possibility, how easy it is.

I've never been a fan of insect repellent, which I always took to be the first cousin of pesticides, and one that you sprayed on yourself! But I've been wearing below the knees the deet-containing skintastic that was left here by a former resident. Why, because this freaks me out more than anything:

Copyright: Lynette Schimming, 2005
Nymphal ticks, smaller, hard-to-see, abundant!

City gardener, we've got other dragons to slay. I'll take cat cocky, peckin' pigeons, satanic squirrels, foolishly flung footballs, sticky-fingered folks, and what else thy city will throw at me over the blood sucking minutiae of suburbia outward. Not to mention their other dragons -too many to list!

I caught one of those nymphal ticks on me yesterday. I never would have caught it, as it was hightailing up my leg, but I was checking every few minutes because I was stop and go strolling through what I now call the gauntlet -a thin trail with grass drooping in from each side. If I didn't see the moving dot...


  1. Jeepers. I'm staying home.

    My brothers, if they found a fat tick on one of our dogs, growing up, would encourage explosion by lighting a match under it.

    We do live on separate continents, you know.

  2. I think we lit a match once, just once.

  3. Thoug you are going back to the tick free city soon- tips for keeping ticks away and Lymes.

    Wear tall rubber boots with pants tucked in and windbreaker type materials. Ticks especially like to cral up any nubby fabric. I take a daily dose of OLE a natural antibiotic as well as eat lots of garlic.

    BTW- enjoyed your talk at the library very much.


  4. I found an adult female deer tick on my back yesterday. Attached, but it hadn't been there long. The day before, my husband had one on his leg, slightly engorged. Ugh ugh ugh ugh.

    (Of course, what did my husband do when he finished screaming obscenities? He asked me to fetch the camera.)

  5. I've been lucky -its sounds like you guys have not! Do you wear any chem spray? Save the tick a get it tested (if its not too late)

  6. I really didn't realize how ticky the East is. being a city girl when I'm here. My husband, who hates ticks more than most people, is about to move here, and I was thinking of how much woodsy exploring we would enjoy...but scratch scratch, I'm not sure! Why...Do we have more mice?

  7. More mice than..... any where else?

    Some would say that tick populations are on the rise in this area. Some would say that ticks matter more because of Lyme Disease. Some will blame warmer winters. Some will blame large deer populations. Some will blame suburbanization.

    Ticks have multiple hosts and there are ticks all across America: Tick Nation! My last tick I got in Eastern Oregon. We had plenty-o-ticks growing up on L.I. I saw more ticks in the Rio Grande Valley than ever here.

    After one month of being here and going on several hikes, I found two ticks, before they could engorge. Is that alot? I don't think so, but if you plan on camping, you need to prepare. Hiking is pretty tick free on woodland trails without bushwacking. Stay out of the tall grass and if you do go in to get that stellar photo, check as soon as you emerge.

    Its good to hate the ticks, that'll keep you checking. Checking keeps you engorged tick free. There are sprays. Where slippery clothes, tuck in all that tucks. Its easier to be tick free as a husband and wife team as you can check each other.

    The intimacy of tick grooming.

  8. I don't think we saved the tick. Given that we live in a high-risk area, we assume all deer ticks carry lyme's. The question then becomes "was it attached long enough to transmit the disease?" Here is a distribution map of Lyme's disease. We live not too far from the town of Lyme.

  9. I forgot to answer your other question! No, we don't wear any poisons, because we have a ten-month-old baby in the house.


If I do not respond to your comment right away, it is only because I am busy pulling out buckthorn, creeping charlie, and garlic mustard...