Friday 13 June 2014

A Tick On My Hand And The Lowdown On Lyme

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:  

  • 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.


Ventral side
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! 


  1. Ticks are dicks! Thanks for the first laugh of the morning.
    How can they deny Lyme disease even exists?
    Fortunate my state is not on the Lyme disease list although we are heavily infested with ticks. Yet another reason why I hate going outdoors.

  2. I found a tick on my arse after a boating trip. Tim had to remove by placing a hot needle against its backside. He had to use tweezers to eventually grab it.

    I hate ticks. Did I mention I hate ticks? Yeah.

  3. lol Ticks are dicks indeed, thankfully I never found one there haha I've had many on me back before the whole Lyme thing became predominant. Haven't caught any on me for a while, but yeah the little bastards need to all die. And it is pathetic how you have so many moron doctors deny it even exists and the tests they have an only 30-50% accurate in finding it lol morons

  4. You like writing about bugs... I remember a blog you wrote on lice. Both nasty little suckers which don't seem to have much purpose on earth. I have an interesting tick story from many, many years ago in the state of Kentucky but I won't bore you. My husband has a writing partner here who had to cancel a meeting a couple weeks ago b/c symptoms from him having Lyme disease were flaring up. It is indeed real! We are in WA state so he must have contracted it somewhere else.

  5. Hi, Elise,

    I've read several accounts from people who've had Lyme disease and didn't know what it was and how they suffered for years. Wouldn't wish that on anybody.

  6. Lyme disease is awful. Need to kill those dicks with bricks or stones

  7. Now I'm all itchy and twitchy! LOL I grew up in rural Oklahoma and remember doing 'tick checks' after we'd come back from hunting or fishing. They were just part of life for me, but I recall how upset my mother would get if she found one on us. She eventually explained what Lyme disease was, and we were suddenly cool with her fussing over us. :)

  8. Shudder. It's tick season here. We never go outside without copious amounts of bug spray, hats, and a lot of prayer because ticks freak me out. Even so, we've found one on our son already this summer.

  9. Wow this brings back memories for me from childhood. I used to spend hours and hours and hours playing in the woods each day. Every evening when I came back in, mom would check my head for ticks (usually always finding some). Can't believe I never got sick! Good times.

  10. GET IT! *high fives* Super, super ick! The last time I had a tick on me was when I was 14. I was doing flips outside gymnast-style and I suck, so of course I kept landing on my back. After itching for two days I finally had my mom look at my back and she pulled TWO ticks off! They were tiny, but yeah, never did that again. Lol! Probably a good thing as I was coming dangerously close to pulling something.

  11. You are the only person I know who would pick the damn thing up. Nice GoT reference by the way.

    Moody Writing

  12. I had no idea Lyme disease stats were so high. Glad you spotted him before you became a host. I am glad to live in a country that doesn't have ticks, as far as I know.

    1. Of course I had to go and look it up and discover I am wrong. New Zealand has ticks. :(

  13. Why did you pick it up? Anyway, that is really scary that you found one in your own yard. Stay safe, Elise!

  14. My stepdad was sure he had a tick on his leg last weekend. My mom kept telling him it was a mole. He lit a match and tried to burn it. No lie! So he burned his mole...

  15. During one family vacation to northern Wisconsin, my step-daughter ended up with 12 ticks on her. We should have seen that many swarm her but we didn't. She was a brave girl as we pulled them off. The scariest was the one right by her ear. Glad we got that bugger in time. None of the rest of us had nearly that many. Don't know why they targeted her. I hate them.

  16. Hi Elise - well your bug story has caught everyone's attention and I sincerely hope none of us keep a tick on us for long now .. I know they are checked for over here ... and I used to see lots in South Africa ... great explanation - thanks for warning us ..

    Good post for Friday 13th?! Cheers Hilary

  17. Ugh, ticks. I loath them! We had a scare here last week, with rocky mountain spotted fever, and I just really want it to get hot here so that they'll die off!

  18. HAHAHAHAH! That's an awesome George R.R. Martin reference! Thanks for all the useful info on ticks. Season 4 of Game of Thrones just ended over here and it was wonderful. I hope you are a fan!

  19. Elise, check out this post on io9. One of the images is "Inside the mouth of a tick." But several of the others are quite interesting/fascinating.

  20. What the what? You had a tick on your tit? :) Pray do tell us how did it happen... were you naughty somewhere in some field in Provance? :)

  21. I've never heard of Lyme disease. I've heard of tick fever.
    And our dog picks up ticks during summer. I buy a monthly tablet for him which is quite costly, but seems to help.

  22. What little arachnid is always correct? A tick. Does that tick answer make you a mite cross? I'm outta here....

    Gary :)

  23. *shudders* I don't like ticks or most creepy crawly things with more legs than four. I rarely go outside because of them.

  24. I have heard of Lyme Disease, don't fancy meeting one of those ticks. Have found them on the cats a few years ago. Will remember to avoid the long grass, thank you.

  25. We have tons of Ceanothus (Wild Lilac), and the ticks love it. I have to be extra careful when I hike. Amy Tan had Lyme disease and was sick for years. Those ticks are tiny but evil.

  26. Obnoxious little buggers! Hey, any idea why there aren't more cases of Lyme disease in the Southern U.S.? I know we have ticks here but I've wondered about that.

  27. Since comments are closed on your post today, leaving one here. Very nice photos, you have a lot of cats, and never seen a beefly before.

  28. Love the kitty pics on your latest post. Are they yours, or fosters? I'm fostering right now, and only have 3 kittens (as well as my own two adult cats). It's driving me a bit nuts, but luckily they are adorable!

    Beautiful photos of flowers and other things as well, up there.

  29. You are the brave one Elise. That is much bigger than the ones I am used to seeing around here.

    Several years ago, when older boy was like 4, he woke me up and said he thought he had a tick on his head. I was like "sure kid, go back to sleep and we'll look at it in the morning." He insisted that I look and sure enough, there was one there.

    I did the smashing then.

  30. Eeeeeeekk!!! I say your first instinct was right -- burn the yard! :O

  31. That is totally a big ass tick! Yuck! The other day my husband retold the story about when he got a tick on his unmentionables when he was in the military in the field. Bahaahaha! Every time I hear that story it gets better and better. LOL! Can you imagine?

  32. hey girl!! I miss you my little running buddy! the pics you are taking are fab, the tick...not so fab


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