Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Dark Side of Gardening

I felt something.  A terrible suspicion entered my mind, so I went upstairs, took off my shirt, and looked in the mirror.  Sure enough, there it was, crawling across my stomach.  Trying not to scream and alarm the children, I grabbed it and ran half-naked through the house to the bathroom.  (Sorry to any neighbors who might have been glancing at our windows at the time.)  I threw it down the sink and poured water down the drain for about 10 minutes, as there was no way I wanted that sucker to come back up.

There it is, folks, the dark side of gardening or being outside in general, especially if you live in my neck of the woods.  It is a very tiny but extremely scary foe:

TICKS.

If you thought I was going to stop and take a picture of the tick on me, you thought wrong.
Here is a pic from Wikipedia.
The next day I went out to the garden again.  This time I was prepared, having sprayed myself liberally with Eau de Deet.  I was working in my vegetable garden picking bok choy when I happened to look down and spotted movement.  There was another one, its little red and black body standing out in stark contrast as it crawled along my cream-colored shirt.

Yes, I look this good while screaming.
Apparently it did not get the memo that it was supposed to keep away from anything with Deet.  A pesticide developed for use by the Army for jungle warfare after World War II, one that I try to avoid putting on my own children, is apparently just not good enough for my backyard ticks.  Either that or I have extra dumb ones.

And yes, now I have become rather scared of my own backyard.

The scariness of ticks is not the actual tick or even the way the little insect turns vampire and sucks blood into its increasingly bloated body (ew).  It's more because of all the diseases it could be carrying.   In the Northeast, sources say 50% or even up to 75% of the adult deer tick females (the only deer ticks that suck blood) could carry Lyme disease.  Almost everyone you meet up here has some horror story of someone they know with Lymes that has had serious health complications - even including death.

"Lyme Disease Risk Map" by The Center for Disease Control and Prevention 
That's scary stuff.

And that's not even counting the other tick-borne diseases that are also rearing their ugly heads up here: Rocky Mountain Fever, Powassan Virus, Borrelia miyamotoi disease, babesiosis, and several other unpronounceable ones.

So, what's a girl to do?  I garden extensively, and my exercise of choice is hiking through the woods.  I don't want to give up my favorite activities.  (That would be letting the tiny terrorists win!) So far my plan of action has involved more Deet, tucking my pants into my socks within my gardening boots (better look like a dork than the other option, right?), and spend a good amount of time stripping in front of a mirror each time after I go outside.  So far, so good (knocking on lots of wood).

photo source
So now you know what I am afraid of this Halloween.  (I can't even imagine what would happen if some kid wore a giant tick costume and came trick-or-treating to my door.)  As always, happy gardening after reading this post - and good luck out there.

30 comments:

  1. When I read the last paragraph, I couldn't help myself. I said, "Tick or Treat!"

    There's nothing funny about ticks, though. Thank you for the reminder.

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    1. Ha, that's a good one! It can be a scary thing, though, for sure.

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  2. I have not found DEET to be a deterrent either. There seems to a correlation with deer populations which I have first stated seeing in my garden this year and barberries, too. Shelter where we do not garden to intensively. I wish I could offer some advice other than vigilance but I can't.

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    1. Interesting. I know they hide in leaf litter, too, so we have to be so careful this time of year when cleaning up the garden.

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  3. We have them here too and I've even found a dead one on my skin. I believe the % carrier risk is lower but it is something I'm very aware of now, especially as I also garden in a wood and we have deer. Take care!

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    1. I have woods right behind our house and deer pass through the woods and my garden, so I am very vigilant! With cleaning up the garden this time of year we have to be so careful, too.

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  4. And you thought skydiving was scary! It's the tiny ticks that are the worst. Here's a hint from personal experience. When you run your hand over a tick it flips over in a vary distinct way. A really good friend is very helpful for this process.Get yourself a tick removal kit (Insurance) Want to know more? Visit my blog and type in ticks if you dare!

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    1. I'm a little scared to! :) I've heard the word 'epidemic' tossed around in regards to Lyme Disease up here. And the little ones can be so tiny and hard to find, especially when one has lots of freckles anyway!

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    2. Wow, you do have some scary stories! Glad you get antibiotics right after tick removals. There's such a high risk of being infected anymore.

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  5. I'm in that "high risk" area in the Midwest as shown on the map, so I understand. Interestingly, I didn't have any on my person this year, although one night when we were turning in to sleep, we found one in our bed! Talk about creepy! I used DEET all summer--7%, but it seemed to help with the skeeters, and apparently the ticks, too. I don't like to use it either, but I don't want Lyme Disease, West Nile, or any of the other mosquito- or tick-borne illnesses. Glad you found the ticks before they burrowed in. (Oh, and I'll have to read Becky's posts about tick removal. I've found hot match heads and rubbing alcohol on Q-tips to be effective at getting them to back out.) Stay safe!

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    1. Oh that would creep me out!! It's scary how many things are going around. I use a 7% Deet as well, but am thinking of upping the ante!

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  6. So sorry to hear you're under attack. I hate those nasty little buggers, it was bad enough before, but now with Lyme they're even more disgusting. I hope we don't have a similar problem here as I'm seeing more and more deer around and the local hunters are getting older.

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    1. I really hope it doesn't keep spreading. This year, at least, the dry summer has kept the number of ticks down a bit. The ticks are such a problem.

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  7. Hello Indie!
    Very interesting post.
    I read with great pleasure.
    Have a nice week.
    Greetings from Poland.
    Lucia

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  8. Eeeeeeeeeek, I've found ticks on my cats but not on me. I would be very afraid of Lyme Disease.

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    1. Thankfully I don't think you have too much of it down there. Just lots of alligators, pythons, and various other poisonous critters to be scared of, right? ;)

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  9. Oh no, keep your tics I don't think I would like them but I did find tucking your pants into your socks very amusing. What am I thinking, of course that would be (American pants)

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    1. Ha, I had to look that up. I guess that would be a rather funny statement where you are. I guess 'trousers' would be the word?

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  10. Glad you caught it before it did damage. I once picked sweet peas along a roadside in St louis and got a tick for my trouble. Never again. And our dog got a tick which blew up like a grape. Yuck!

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    1. Ew! Having a dog would be a lot of work here, as one would have to constantly check for ticks. It is possible for a dog to get Lyme Disease, too, though less common I think.

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  11. These little creatures are scarier than any ghosts or goblins! Ticks aren't as common around here, but I always check my dogs carefully after we've walked in the woods anyway. Glad you found the little varmint and got rid of him immediately.

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    1. I've become a little paranoid now about checking for ticks now :) We just have indoor cats, which I'm thankful for, as I'd be afraid a dog would get so many ticks around here.

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  12. Poor you. I'm pleased you are OK. We went for a holiday in a forest in the UK last month, and my 12 year old daughter, who (courtesy of Dr Google) is an expert on the perils of Lyme Disease, spent most of the holiday terrified of ticks. It's such a shame.
    Like Alistair, the whole tucking pants into socks image made me giggle. One language.... such different definitions!

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    1. Do you have a lot of Lyme Disease there? It is funny how the same word can have very different definitions. I had a friend from England and we had to tell her to stop asking for a 'rubber' at school. Here we call it an eraser, as a 'rubber' means something else entirely.

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  13. You made me laugh, even though it is a very serious subject. I am located in one of the 'black' areas on the map, and vigilance is vital. We have a 'tick-removing tool' and a procedure to get the offender to the lab asap, to have it tested to determine if we need antibiotics. As you say, one of the perils ...
    P. x

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    1. I've wondered if we should get one of those tools, and if they are better than tweezers. Gardening is not for the faint of heart anymore around here!

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  14. Eek ! they sound disgusting! I would be in the house with the windows locked and barred!! Here in my bit of the uk the tics adore dogs and so hopefully leave us humans alone !!

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    1. Haha! I must say, I've stopped going out back in our woods anymore, as I'm sure they are full of ticks. I saw deer hoof prints in my side garden yesterday, and the first thing I thought was, 'Nooo! Don't bring the ticks up here!'

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  15. Good thing you found these ticks....it is what scares me too as we are at moderate risk here.

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