Friday, May 3, 2013

Great... We Have Ticks!

Not the wildlife I would have preferred to encounter... but we seem to have a tick problem.  The dogs have picked up a couple of them.  I found one in my hair, thankfully still unattached.  And tonight there was one crawling across the blanket we keep on the couch for evenings that are a little cool for comfort.

I'm ready to end the meet and greets with yucky insects that I've never seen before!

The dogs have been treated with flea and tick medication so hopefully they are probably safe.  Although I did find one attached to that soft belly skin a couple days after the treatment and that does give me some concern.

male     female
The identification guide I googled makes me think they are American Dog Ticks which are closely related to Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks and Gulf Coast Ticks.  And, sadly, can be carriers for the same diseases:  Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tuleremia and may carry Human Granulocytic Ehrlichiosis.  (I'm not even sure what those last 2 are but guessing they are bad.)

The picture is 2-3X larger than the real life ticks I've seen.  And even the couple that had attached were still unengorged and going by the picture all have been male.  The engorged females look even more unsavory...

Left to Right: unengorged female, 1/4 engorged, 1/2 engorged and fully engorged
Our brushy and wooded lot is their perfect habitat.  They live, in large numbers, in tall grass and jump off onto any warm-blooded creature that wanders by.  As I said, the dogs have had a flea and tick treatment.  But we still check them, and us, daily.  And I'm exploring ways to kill and/or repel them even more.  What I've found so far says that if we treat our clothing with permethrin it will kill any who try to hitch a ride there and that DEET-based skin repellent helps repel them.

So what is permethrin?  Where do I get it?  How do I use it?  And is it safe?

Wikipedia has this to say:  "Permethrin is a common synthetic chemical, widely used as an insecticide, acaricide, and insect repellent. It belongs to the family of synthetic chemicals called pyrethroids and functions as a neurotoxin, affecting neuron membranes by prolonging sodium channel activation. It is not known to rapidly harm most mammals or birds, but is dangerously toxic to cats and fish."  And that in agriculture, "its use is controversial because, as a broad-spectrum chemical, it kills indiscriminately; as well as the intended pests, it can harm beneficial insects including honey bees, and aquatic life."

That's not sounding like a very safe to use chemical.  And DEET comes with its own set of reasons to avoid it.

So far the only more natural controls I've found are to mow the grass as close to the ground as possible to eliminate their habitat and to spray the yard with citronella oil.

Off to find citronella oil!

Just talking about ticks is making me itch and imagine crawling sensations all over my body.  Ewwww...

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