|Larva, nymph, and adult ticks|
They have eight legs, which makes them kin to spiders and they reproduce by the thousands. The larva stage is tiny, not much bigger than the head of a pin, but easily recognizable if you can see them.
Scientific thought maintains that they acquire the bacteria that produces the most well know diseases while they are in the larva stage of growth when they feed on an animal that has been previously infected. They then carry and can transmit the disease to another host for their entire life span, which an be up to three years.
Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia, and Tularemia (also called rabbit fever) are famous names for diseases that affect humans resulting in sores, rashes, fevers, debilitation, fatigue, and can eventually cause death. Bacteria change and mutate so new infections are added periodically to the list of known diseases carried by ticks.
We see them frequently in their nymph stage when they are about three-eights of an inch in length.
It's tempting to run bare footed across a freshly mowed lawn -- don't. The best defense is to avoid them. Below are a few precautions if you are outdoors in an area where ticks are prevalent.
Avoid open strap shoes like flip-flops. Wear long pants tucked inside socks and heavy shoes or boots when working in the yard, garden, or walking in high grass or a wooded area.
When you get in the house change clothes down to your bare skin, then dump the garments in the washer with a drop of bleach. I wear a broad brimmed straw hat that is sprayed with OFF and spray my clothes before working in the garden.
Have someone check where you can't see. This may seem like a bother for only a few moments outside, but it protects you and may save your life.
Unlike mosquitoes which bite almost as soon as they lite on your skin, ticks crawl around until they find a suitable place to feed. When they've found a feasting spot they produce a 'cement' that secures them in place before they start feeding. Good sites for a tick dinner are warm, dark, and damp.
Check your pets before they come in the house. Our dogs have been treated with products from the vet and wear flea & tick collars that are changed frequently, yet during the past two weeks we've found live ticks on them that have resisted all of our efforts.
With all of your precautions sooner or later you may find yourself as a host to a tick. I had one in the center of my back - almost impossible to reach. Nash used his method of fingernail removal. It has taken over 10 days to heal and stop itching. He removed the body of the tick, but broke off the feeding tube in my skin. This is a personal example of why this method is not the best one to follow.
The standard removal system is to grasp the mouth of the tick with fine pointed tweezers and pull backwards. Our aging eyesight, even with a magnifying glass, doesn't work well with this system.
Home solutions are to soak a cotton ball with either alcohol or dish-washing detergent and hold it against the tick for a minute or more. Either substance paralyzes them and then they can be lifted off with the tweezers. Clean the entry spot with a topical antibiotic or alcohol at intervals for several days.
When camping stock you first-aid kits with the little alcohol swab pads or stick some in a pockets when you go walking or running. They come in handy for many things.
Most of all enjoy your summer, but beware of the dangers that lurk in the grass, weeds, and woods.
We want to thank Google Images for the illustration. I played with it in Photoshop to get it as near as possible to life-size.