Tuesday, July 05, 2011

We are experiencing a very heavy year for ticks here in southern New Hampshire.  These tiny insects
arachnids, many even smaller in scale than the female deer tick in the photograph below, can carry Lyme Disease that can be successfully treated, but that can also be debilitating for many years.  Now there's also a kind of super tick that can carry several very problematic diseases.  It has begun to spread through some areas of the country
The last couple of years we've had ticks on the property but they weren't too big a problem -- I might have found four on me during the course of a summer.  This summer is something else again.  I consider it a good day when I don't find two ticks on me, and on one day I found three.  Fritz and I check each other out after we've been working outside and we frequently discover them while they're still just walking around on our bodies looking for a good place to start digging in.

I'm a bug magnet; they just love me and I usually joke that "they must love Italian food."  But it's very bad this year, and last night as I was getting undressed, I looked down and there was one beginning to attach itself to that which most men consider their most valuable personal possession -- I was not a happy man.

I have a small plastic tool called a Ticked Off, a hemispheric bowl on a handle with a narrow V-shaped notch in the bowl. The idea is to slide the notch under the tick and capture it in the tight point of the V, then slowly rock the bowl back, pulling the tick out and hoping that all of it detaches.  If the tick has been burrowed in for too long, the powerful pincers anchored in the flesh may not give way and the body will separate from the head that remains embedded.

The Place of Execution

Ticks are notoriously difficult to kill.  You can't squeeze or crush them to death the way you can kill most bugs.  People have dropped them into alcohol or gasoline.  People have taken a lighted match and placed it on the tick while still attached to a person, risking a burn in order to kill it.  So far, the quickest and easiest way to kill a tick we have found is to carry it in the bowl of the Ticked Off to our Aga kitchen stove (or cooker, since it is an English product).  There are no open flames on an Aga; you cook on cast iron plates that are at 350 and 750 degrees.  We open the insulated lid on the 750 degree plate, shake the tick out of the Ticked Off bowl onto the plate, and close the lid.  The tick is incinerated.  If we're a bit slow on closing the lid, we'll hear the tick explode with an audible pop.  It couldn't happen to a more deserving insect arachnid.*

* With thanks to Doug Taron of Gossamer Tapestry for pointing out that insects have six legs, while the eight legs of the tick place it in the same family as spiders.  Still doesn't make me like ticks any better!


This lovely plant is a Clivia which was given to Fritz by a friend at Quaker Meeting some time late in the winter.  In the very late spring, he likes to put our house plants outside and this one is placed where we can see it from the house easily.  I always think Clivia sounds like a Roman Empress.

On Friday, we're receiving a delivery of 164 perennials and woody shrubs which will pretty much finish up the five year plan for landscaping the property and establishing specific garden areas.  There may well be a couple of ornamental trees coming next fall, but essentially we're finishing the five year plan in three years. The early finish is my doing,  because I don't mind good honest hard work and because I didn't see the need to drag the project out as long as five years.  I'm very excited about seeing everything in place.  Despite not having the best soil here (of course we reinforce it with composted manure) just about everything is thriving.  Pictures in the next post.   

Eep! Ticks! We've got way to many of them on the farm. This year we seem to be plagued with an increase in fleas as well.
nasty nasty ticks!
I will remain with the local scorpions thank you.
Yes, an annual scourge for us, too. Mainly the dog. I pulled three off of her yesterday. I've been "got" twice. We have a very similar tick tool. Same principle, only no bowl. It's a fork that you twist once the tick's head is in the notch.

Callies flea and tick preventative doesn't keep ticks from attaching, but they die once they start drinking, then they fall off, unable to reproduce. I've stepped on one in the house, squirting blood everywhere. Ick.

Lyme disease can occur here, but it's not as widespread as it is where you are.
Nasty things!!... we're always pulling them off the dogs but so far none of us humans have been bitten.

What struck me most about your post was the Aga cooker.... very interesting! These must be very rare on this side of the Atlantic. The "Two Fat Ladies" cooking serious from 15 years ago always used Agas.
BB -- we got ours with the help of a friend who is a chef. He had a job with Domain in the wealthy western Suburbs of Boston; before they went under, he worked selling Agas and cooked all day, giving demos, serving dinner to prospective buyers, etc. He sold a lot of them, particularly as one suburban matron got one, and then all of her friends had to have one, etc., etc.
Ugh. I remember ticks from my time in the piney woods of Eastern Carolina. Often due to an over-abundance of deer.
I thought you could only get ticks from walking through long grass - can they actually attach themselves without you brushing against them? Remember dogsitting one summer, and pulling the tick from an old labrador's eyelid with a special pair of tick-tweezers.
David, I've spent days outside working nowhere near long grasses and still come inside to find ticks on me. They seem to be everywhere this year and in much greater numbers than ussal, something confirmed by television news segments on how to deal with them and reasons why they're so dangerous.

It just confirms for me why my cats will always be indoor cats.
We have not had a particularly bad year for ticks out my way this year. They are making their presence known, but not in unusually high numbers. One minor quibble with your post:

>These tiny insects...

Ticks are not insects but rather arachnids, the group that includes spiders. The top photo nicely shows the 8 legs. Insects have 6 legs.
Thank you, Dr. Taron! My post will be edited and annotated immediately.
We've been lucky not to have Bandit ticked yet this summer. In fact, I just put his Advantix on yesterday. I don't like poisoning him once a month but the alternatives are worse.

Can't wait to see the pictures of your gardens!
Love the plant. Hate the ticks. I imagine that with climate change, the ticks are finding it easier to move further north. (Which I also imagine is why there has been such an outbreak of bedbugs and kudzu (plant) up yalls way.)

You don't put a lighted match to the tick. You light a match, let it burn, and then blow it out and put the hot ember to the tick. This is supposed to hurt it enough to pull it completely off.

Oddly, I remember someone saying that putting peanut butter on the tick helps to remove it - possibly it smothers the tick, causing it to release from the flesh to make for easier removal. :)
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