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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ticks SUCK!

Who doesn’t hate ticks, the little blood-sucking bastards? Unless you spend all your time indoors, you probably know that this is a really bad year for ticks.

In fact, the URI Center for Vector Borne Disease estimates that deer tick nymphs, the kind that are at their peak right about now and pose the greatest risk of Lyme Disease, are 52% more abundant this year. They are also showing up in unusual places.

Here’s what you should know and what you should do.

If you want to learn all about ticks in this area and what they can do to you, the best resource is URI’s Tick Encounter website. They tackle the subject in a straight-forward and interesting – though still creepy – way with lots of illustrations and practical advice.

Tick concentrations are worst in our area

The URI tick center does a lot of its own fund-raising to try to expand its work and its educational outreach. Among the things they do is a Tick Gala (not kidding).

For the past couple of years, Rep. Donna Walsh and Senator Sue Sosnowski have tried to help the center by sponsoring “Scratch a Tick” lottery legislation. The idea is to have the State Lottery run a “scratch-a-tick” instant lottery ticket and earmark either three months’ revenue or $200,000 to support the center. Unfortunately, the bills haven’t passed, but I hope Donna and Sue will keep trying.

The scientists at URI want you to “Think TICK.”
  • Tweezers – use pointy tweezers to safely remove ticks
  • Inspect – check yourself out once a day
  • Clothing Repellant – they recommend permethrin (see below for a natural remedy)
  • Kill the critters – they recommend nuking habitat areas and other measures to kill or keep the little bastards out.

I’m not a big fan of chemical pesticides, though not fanatically so, but I hesitate to even consider nuking the edges and trails on my land. But I would consider a more natural approach.

Our friends at EcoRI recently published the following recipe for a more natural – and inexpensive – bug repellant that I plan to cook up for our home use:

Enjoy an Insect Bite-Free Summer, Naturally

Here is a recipe for an all natural insect repellent that works on ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, blackflies and head lice.
  • 1 2/3 cup of apple cider vinegar.
  • 1 2/3 cup witch hazel, rubbing alcohol or cheap vodka.
  • 5 drops each of the following essential oils: rose geranium (for ticks), citronella or eucalyptus (for mosquitoes), sassafras or lavender (for blackflies), tea tree or rosemary (for head lice) and orange oil (for fleas).
  • half-cup jojoba oil or fresh aloe gel.
Combine all of the ingredients in a spray bottle, shake, spray and rub. You will have to reapply this mixture more frequently than its store-bought counterparts, and though you may have to lay out some dough for the oils initially, you’ll save money in the long run because a little oil goes a long way, and the other ingredients are inexpensive. You can also customize this liquid to be more effective against certain bibbitts, and it works as effectively on your pets as it does on your kids.