Last year’s weather in our part of the Southeastern U.S. was fraught with above normal amounts of rainfall. This season, mosquitoes seem much worse than usual, I suspect due to the breeding grounds established by the year-ago torrents. For me, though, the worst onslaught overall has been the recent abundance of ticks.
For many people in our “modern” world having a tick attached to their person is the equivalent of having an STD. I know some folks who have avoided such an experience all their lives (tick bite, I mean). But not me! Last year, I set a personal best (?) of at least sixteen attached ticks over the spring and summer. This includes one which perched on a very personal, private area of my male anatomy, the noun which identifies it also beginning with ‘p’. That episode was both highly insulting and revolting. However, I will point out that none of the aforementioned ticks survived their brief interlude on my anatomy nor have I contracted Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (yet).
Aside from the great degree of moisture our region experienced in 2013, I also learned a few years ago that tick populations will surge about three years after a healthy nut crop. The reason being, animals which feast upon acorns, walnuts, hickory nuts, pecans, etc. are also perfect hosts for those blood sucking mini-monsters. Conceivably an annual evaluation of the nut count in your neighborhood could lead to an accurate prediction as to when you should take that long awaited vacation to Antarctica.
Perhaps you’ve already noticed this, but we’ve been rather fortunate that most biting, sucking insects have been designed to be relatively slow moving. Mosquitoes, no see ‘ums, and horse flies are in this category. I believe we would be in a constant state of distress if mosquitoes could fly with the speed and maneuverability of a hummingbird.
However the Blue Ribbon winner for creating paranoia in the human brain is the disgusting tick. Simply get into your truck to head home from an afternoon in the woods and then notice a tick crawling up the arm of your companion. At that point, every small, moderately ticklish sensation on your own flesh explodes into the worry that relatives are stealthily sleuthing over your own hyper-sensitive skin searching for a nice secluded spot to start dining. And, if you’ve been in infested areas long enough, such angst will be verified as your thumb and index finger search frenetically like a Bluetick Hound looking for escaped convicts.
Chiggers are another loathsome creature that create maddening itchiness in hordes of red blotches. It may be anathema to some, but a coating of clear fingernail polish on the irritated spot is a proven ‘cure’. Colored polish works just as well, but may amount to stop lights for your bedtime partner. Which reminds me of the time I acquired dozens of bites on my feet and legs and had applied a dot of lovely lavender nail polish to each one of them. Unfortunately, soon after my ‘selfie’ paint job, a bout of gout required a trip to the doctor. Dutifully exposing my lower limbs, I watched the doc’s eyes swell with images of refugee camps while he promptly snapped on his examination gloves. Despite my assurances, I’m confident he thought I had leprosy or termites or some combination of both.
The point of all this mindless chatter about creatures many seem to be able to avoid (probably due to living in hermetically sealed environments) is that it ain’t possible for any person to experience the out of doors without being claimed as food by some six-legged blood sucker. Of course, you can bathe yourself in Deet and then wonder in later years why you are growing another arm or experiencing a strong desire for raw, bloody meat. And while petroleum products are also a proven deterrent, I choose not to set myself up for self-immolation.
In my experience, grassy or “weedy” areas where the vegetation is about twelve to eighteen inches high are where chances of becoming a donor are greatest. Picking blackberries seems to be the activity associated with the most pronounced risk. The best defense is prompt bathing along with having a friend (preferably a ‘close’ friend) administer a complete and thorough check for ticks. Given the right set of circumstances, these inspections could lead to other, more pleasant activities. If building a new home or remodeling an existing one, consider constructing a shower that will allow adequate room for four or five of your closest friends to clean up at the same time. Regardless, keep on gettin’ outside and remember the average healthy human can readily survive the donation of a pint or so of blood.