Yesterday Linda came in from gardening with three deer ticks attached. I easily extracted all three using our Tick Off plastic spoon. I had picked four deer ticks off of my body that day, all as they moved up my arms and legs. Yes, tick checks are now done routinely every day at our house. These days, when the tick is a wood tick, I am almost relieved. No danger there. But deer ticks are frightening, particularly because I have friends with Lyme disease and it is an almost daily threat to me now.
Last week, coming home from the legislature, I pulled into Fielder’s Choice ice cream in Manchester, using the drive-up window to order a cone. As the young lady handed me the cone, I reached for it with my left hand and noticed a tick. I quickly yanked the hand back, but as I tried to grab the cone with the right hand, I discovered another tick on that hand!
It’s been good to see so many writers tick talking lately, many offering suggestions for protection from these dangerous insects. I usually bring Tick Off spoons to my talks. I’ve given a lot away to friends. You can buy them in bulk from the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine in Augusta. Linda and I have the spoons with us wherever we go. I’ve got them in the car, in my hunting back pack, and Linda has them at school. Yes, kids come in from recess with ticks on them. Linda came up with a clever way to dispose of the ticks, wrapping them in tape and tossing them into the garbage.
Northern Woodlands magazine included a great column on ticks and Lyme disease recently. Dave Mance III attended a talk about ticks and Lyme disease, by Kathleen Lo Giudice, a Union College researcher. In his Tick Talk column, Mance reported, “I’d been picking fiddleheads right before the talk, and several times during the presentation I noticed black-legged ticks crawling on my pants. Just 10 years ago there weren’t any ticks – or weren’t any to speak of – in the area where these fiddleheads grew, which was one of the points LoGiudice was making.”
I had a similar experience last year. Sitting at my desk, writing about deer ticks, I felt one crawling up my leg. I wondered, “Does it know I am writing about it?!”
“Listening to LoGiudice’s presentation and the attendees’ question,” writes Mance, “made me marvel at how far we’ve come in the last decade in our collective knowledge about ticks and Lyme. When I wrote a story in 2008, the disease felt new and scary, whereas the vibe at last night’s talk had a battle-hardened quality. But the presentation also reaffirmed how complicated the tick life cycle, and the disease, and the public health system are, which was a little depressing, too. While ticks have spread through our region at an almost unbelievable rate, and outbreaks of Lyme disease have become common occurrences in our communities, we’re still no closer to a commercial vaccine, or even a decent Lyme test.”
On Wednesday (May 27) at noon in the Capitol’s welcome center, I will participate in a press conference on ticks and climate change, organized by the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Public health officials and insect experts will be speaking, and my presentation will focus on the impact ticks and Lyme disease have had on outdoor recreation and the health of wildlife. I’ll focus on turkey hunting, noting that I’ve heard from quite a few hunters who gave up turkey hunting because they always came home with ticks, and the terrible impact of ticks on moose.
The National Wildlife Federation published an excellent paper on the impacts of ticks on wildlife, public health, and outdoor recreation. “Changes to our climate are destroying critical wildlife habitat, causing species’ ranges to shift, decreasing available food and water for wildlife, changing the chemistry of the ocean, and increasing the rate of species’ extinction,” reported the NWF.
“But perhaps the most immediate threat to most outdoor enthusiasts is the impact that climate change is having on the incidence of pests and invasive species,” noted the article. “We are seeing mosquitos and fire ants expanding their ranges while invasive species threaten native plants and wildlife. Of huge concern are warmer winters, which serve as a welcome mat for pests like ticks to expand their range.”
The National Wildlife Federation website contains lots of great information on these issues, including the impact of climate change on fisheries, something of particular concern for those of us who love Maine’s native brook trout.