Sunday, March 11, 2012

Preparing for Wood Tick Season

Warm weather means wood ticks.  Call it the down side to country life.  But if you live in an area with a preponderance of deer ticks—like my St. Croix River Valley--or where Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) has been documented, these pests are much more than an irritant.  Tick borne diseases can cripple and even kill—pets, as well as people!

My wild birds—especially turkeys—have done an excellent job of controlling the dog tick population around Bon Bon Pond.  But the past two years have seen deer ticks move into the area in a major way.  These microscopic-sized assassins are just too tiny for even the birds to seek and destroy.   

Last summer I encountered only three dog ticks—none of which were attached—but was bit by a half-dozen dangerous deer ticks—at least of which I’m aware.  If any got into my head, well, that’s another story.  They are so small they are practically impossible to see. 

The first bite was the worst—as I’d never experienced a deer tick before.  It was only when  the skin became red that I even found it.  After that frightening experience I became a lot more careful.  My first reaction was a run to the store for repellent.  

After a liberal dosing of DEET-based spray, I was disappointed to discover the deer ticks kept coming.  I was discussing the situation with my friend, Denise, when she mentioned reading that only Permethrin-based sprays are an effective deterrent to deer ticks.  This conversation led to an internet search on the subject.  

Denise was right.  Permethrin-based sprays are effective against deer ticks but must be used with a great deal of caution as the fumes can be toxic.    Clothing should be sprayed well/soaked then let dry overnight as wet clothes should never touch the body.  I use a mask and gloves when I spray my clothes.  Great care must also be taken around pets.  In particular, Permethrin can act like a poison to cats.  In my case, I designate a set of clothes—long sleeved shirt and long pants--as my outdoor work attire and change into them in the garage, away from my pets.  Treated clothing can be effective for up to two weeks. 
There are becoming more and wood tick repellents on the market so it’s getting easier to find one that suits your needs.  For instance, for dog tick prevention Picaridin is a promising new product that’s less toxic than DEET.  A great place to start your research is with this informative website that gives an overview of all the products available: 

Also, there’s a great repository of firsthand experience in the comments section at amazon for a product I’ve used called Sawyer Premium Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent Trigger Spray.  At last check there were insightful reviews from 75 customers.  

Protect yourself!  Protect your beloved pets!  “Be prepared” to enjoy the great outdoors!

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