Tricks with Ticks

I wrote an account of our unpleasant brush with a tick and although we are pretty careful, we got a potentially serious disease (oh yes, it CAN be fatal!) and were not even aware that a tick had bitten.

You can find loads of sites with info on the diseases and lifecycle of ticks. I just wanted to help you all with some pointers of what we do about ticks – I hope it helps.

The best way to deal with ticks at home is to make life hard for them and break their life cycle.

How to kill ticks

I always kill any I find, so they cannot re-infect or breed. How do I kill them?

  1. Pinch them with your nails. The smaller ones snap and you can see and/or hear it. The larger ones, especially with a full bladder, are harder to squash. Be sure to wash your hands after!
  2. Put the tick on a stone and mash with another stone. Make sure ones with a bladder are really dead as these are the ones that may produce the eggs.
  3. Place in water. 1cm deep is enough. Add a drop of soap/detergent to break the meniscus or slosh water to be sure they don’t float to freedom!
  4. Put them into a sealed tub (yoghurt pot with lid is grand). Put a tissue into the pot and spray the tissue with fly spray. This will last for at least a month before another squirt is needed! Pop them in when you find them. This is my chosen method as it is easy and thorough, but the pot needs to be with you.
  5. This is an idea that I have yet to test. Put into sealed pot with folded fly paper in it. Bang the pot before opening so any still free will be knocked to the bottom.

Clean your beasts

Ticks will feed from just about anything – mice, rats, cats, pigs, dogs, horses, birds, snakes humans etc. etc.  Apparently, they have preferences.  Their favourite food is mice for the little ones and deer for the biggies.  I wonder if the different types of tick have differing tastes??!!  Humans are not generally their chosen meal, but if the eggs are brought into your path by another animal and hatch, the odds are that they will ‘make do’ with little you!!

Keeping your own animals clear of ticks is a good idea. You can treat them with all kinds of pharmaceuticals but although it will dramatically reduce the numbers YOU MAY STILL GET SOME TICKS!!!  Some will even attach. They can then drop in your ‘zone’ while still hungry and seek another host. Wild animals will constantly re-infect any area they access, so it is constant. The fewer ticks in your ‘zone’ reduces the chance of a bite! You can treat animals with all kinds of stuff, but still keep checking them as there may still be one little b***** that gets through. They mainly go for the head, particularly the ears (inside and out), and under the ‘armpits’. They can, of course, go anywhere, but if you’re in a rush these are the main areas to check. Dogs and cats love being checked for ticks but may baulk at having them removed.

Removal of ticks

I have used this method to lessen the pain and for access in awkward areas, but use with care! 

Put a squish of fly spray onto a cotton bud and put carefully at the point the tick attaches. It will die and release its grip.  I have in the past used Vaseline to smear as it is supposed to smother them, but it takes more time and I had much less success – and try putting it right next to an eye!

If you see a tick about to move in on you or your animal, nab it before it attaches if poss. I just tweak them out if I see them attached and try to avoid pulling the animal’s hair. The anaesthetic the ticks inject makes it not too painful. The bite may bleed as they also use an anticoagulant.

If you know you are going into a ticky or unknown area, try to wear pale clothing to spot them more easily. Tuck trousers into your socks or tie around the bottom of the legs. At the end of a stroll check each other, and brush down.

Further prevention

Keep track-ways clear of long grasses, even at the edges, as stems fall in and will brush against prospective hosts. As soon as the weather turns warm and dry and we begin to notice our little ‘chums’ we walk the high usage tracks where it will be grazed later, i.e. we don’t want to cut them yet – and collect ticks in a tub.  This year on day 1 I collected 50+ (I lost count). day 2 was 20. Day 3 was 6 and day 4 just one. They mainly sit at the ends of grass stems but may use other plants too. Ticks are just a dark blob, mainly on the end of the stem. If they sense a warm body they put out their little legs and wave at you and will happily hop onto you if you let them! I have yet to test a double-sided sticky tape wrapped around a stick to collect them. Just an idea.

If you get a bite

  1. Remove the tick asap.
  2. Keep the tick if possible. Not always easy, I know. Hold pinched in an often-folded tissue until you get to base camp. Then either put into a sealed pot and label OR put onto a good length strip of Sellotape and fold it back onto your prize and press around the edges. Write on the excess portion the name of the person who was bitten and date. If you should get symptoms, take this with you as it can be used for diagnosis. The incubation time is not short so keep safe for up to a month.
  3. Check for symptoms on the internet and if you match or nearly match them GO TO A MEDIC asap. Both Lyme’s and Rocky Mountain Fever are potentially very serious!!
  4. We were aware of the risks but did not see a tick or a bite, so were fooled. We keep some antibiotic handy that will act against both the above diseases (this was for Lyme’s as Alan is so susceptible, not normal procedure!) but did not take them. It was exactly what the doctor prescribed and it acts quickly but the course MUST BE COMPLETED!!  In future (should it ever happen again…. cringe!) we will take them anyway, just to be sure.

About the author

Kathy Clark

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