The other day I was outside, checking out my aphid infested absinthe wormwood plant (I swear it's strictly ornamental). And while I was cussin' out the aphids and imagining all the diabolic ways to kill them (soapy water did the trick, btw) I spotted a nightmare. A big ass tick-- and it was questing.
Questing, if you don't know, is a behavioral trait by which ticks find their hosts. They'll position themselves at the tip of a blade of grass, or leaf, and stretch out their front limbs as if doing the 'Y' dance move in YMCA.
Anyway, it'll just wait there, questing until a
poor bastard, host brushes by so it can latch on.
|I wasn't real worried about this tick ever locating a host,|
the dummy was questing upside down!
After spotting the tick, my first instinct was to set my yard on fire. Luckily, I was out of matches so I defaulted to picking it up and taking a closer look.
I identified this bloodsucker as a male Rocky Mountain wood tick (Smith and Whitman, NPCA Field Guide to Structural Pests). The Rocky Mountain wood tick is the primary vector of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and can also transmit Colorado tick fever, tularemia, and cause tick paralysis. Fun times!
For many, tick season is upon us and with tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease on the rise worldwide, it's important have a better understanding of ticks and Lyme.
Lyme disease has become the most important vector-born disease in the US.
Back in 1997, there was an estimated 16, 000 reported cases of Lyme disease (M. Service, Medical Entomology, 2000). Today, the CDC estimates the number of people diagnosed each year to be 300,000 in the US alone.
However, in other countries that also have serious Lyme disease problems (I'm looking at you FRANCE), Lyme disease is poorly understood and chronic Lyme isn't even recognized by public health authorities. Most health professionals don't even know Lyme disease exist and many simply deny its existence. Luckily, organizations such as Lyme sans Frontières work hard to bring about prevention and public awareness about this disease, but it's been an uphill battle for years.
So anyway, here's the quick and dirty about Lyme and the bloodsuckers to keep in mind:
- Transmission of Lyme is through a tick bite and the principal vectors in the US are Ixodes scapularis and Ixodes pacificus.
- Rapid removal of ticks reduces the chances of disease transmission. The best removal method is the simplest, use forceps to secure the tick as close to the head as possible and pull the tick off, then treat the bite wound with an antiseptic (M. Service, Medical Entomology, 2000). Of course, go see a doctor if you have any doubts or questions about the bite. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36-48 hours for the bacterium that causes Lyme disease to be transmitted into the host.
- When outdoors, avoid areas with tall grass and bushes where ticks can be found questing, and wear light-colored clothing (this makes it easier to spot ticks that may have just hitched a ride on you).
- Most Lyme disease cases reported to the CDC in the US are concentrated in the Northeast and upper Midwest with 96% occurring in 13 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin.
- Lyme also occurs in Canada, most of Europe, parts of Russia, China, Japan and possibly in Australia.
All in all, I think ticks are misunderstood creatures and deserved to be loved like any other living thing on this planet. Just kidding. Ticks are dicks. I had to pull one off my boob years ago so watch your backs (and your fronts) and check your kids, and your pests--hell check everyone and be safe out there! :D
Oh and for those of you who are wondering what I did with the tick I found, well I did what any normal person would do--I placed in on my deck and smashed it with a rock. "Khuu! Khuu! Khuu!" ;)
And if you want to see some incredible microscopic images that include the mouth parts of a tick, then check out the photo gallery HERE called Life: Magnified which is currently on display at Washington's Dulles International Airport's Gateway Gallery. Thanks Michael for the info and link!