Friday, March 25, 2011

More Tick News

Every year in late-March, the University of New Hampshire hosts a greenhouse open house. The timing is perfect. Our gardens are just emerging from snow cover, a few sprouts are popping up, and we all feel a little cabin fever after a long winter. Visiting a warm, humid greenhouse to see beautiful flowers, herbs, and perennials is just the ticket.

The greenhouse is a tease. The horticultural club sells annuals and perennials for prices that are hard to resist. Who can pass up a pot of yellow miniature daffodils? Not me and most everyone else that I saw!

The greenhouse full of perennials was equally irresistible. Suitable outdoor planting conditions are at least a month away and yet visitors scooped up plants like it was early May. I also succumbed to the warmth and the beauty. Armeria formosa, or pinkball thrift, caught my eye. I left with three of these pink-flowered plants. This plant grows best in well-drained soil in full sun; my yard exactly.

In addition to opening the greenhouses to plant sales and walk-through, the open house offers educational programs and displays full of information. I ran into several former colleagues there, including Dr. Alan Eaton, an expert on ticks. Alan also studies blueberry maggot and other fruit pests. I always have interesting conversations with Alan, including last year when I learned that I had eaten blueberry maggots along with my fresh-picked blueberries from a local farm. Oh well.

Back to ticks though. Since I'd just found ticks on Kodi last week and one on myself a few days ago, it was good to talk with him again about ticks. Alan has several precautionary recommendations when going outside -- especially in June when nymphs are active and are too tiny to see on your body.  He has a great publication on ticks available for download called: Biology and Management of Ticks in New Hampshire. He also has a very helpful publication on the types and effectiveness of Insect Repellents.

Alan's recommendations to avoid tick encounters and lessen the chance of getting Lyme disease include:
  • Check yourself daily (clothing, body, and head); make it routine, like brushing your teeth
  • If walking in high tick areas wear pants tucked into socks and a long-sleeved shirt; light-colored clothing allows you to easily see and brush off ticks
  • Wear full shoes (not sandals) when walking through brushy areas or tall grass
  • Spraying clothing with tick repellent can help; minimize or avoid application on skin
  • If an embedded tick is found, carefully remove it with tweezers; monitor your health - if flu symptoms arise consult your physician
I also carry a roll of masking tape with me on my walkabouts during tick season. This is a handy tool for picking off ticks from clothing. I seal the tick inside the tape and dispose of it once I am back home. This works well on dogs too if they suddenly run through a high tick area and you see ticks crawling on their fur. Ticks stick easily to the tape.

Enough on ticks. I'm signing off now to go smell my miniature daffodils. The smell of spring is in the air, at least a tiny bit inside, on this day in late March - still somewhere between winter and spring.


  1. Growing up on Long Island NY, I learned to deal with ticks at a very young age. All those recommendations are good. I would add that if you do find an embedded tick, make a notation on your calendar - since flu like symptoms don't appear until up to 10-14 days later it's helpful to have a specific date to refer back to. Especially since not everyone develops a "Bulls Eye" rash. I've also learned that it's not uncommon to develop multiple bulls eyes, and sometimes the bulls eye rash looks more like someone punched you... almost bruise like. Additionally I've found the ticks seem to prefer cooler (but not cold) damp days of spring. I use the tape too, but whatever I have handy, it works so well.

  2. Allyson: Thanks for adding the extra tips - good thoughts.