Wednesday, 13 June 2018

If you go into the bracken today...


.. you could be in for a nasty surprise. And the same could be said if you mooch around in long grass. For, my friends, we are in the 'tick season', those tiny ectoparasite arachnids that feed on the blood of mammals - and, by mammals, that does include us! They will crawl up your legs, find a dark and warm place (thighs, waist and, er, other regions) and then start to take a slow, long drink.

It could be hours later (or even days) that the feasting tick will be noticed, as before they become engorged with your blood they can be but the size of a poppy seed, but after a few days will swell to the size of a small pea. And if you do find one, do not panic - they can be removed, with a special tick device or pointed tweezers. Apparently square-ended tweezers are not recommended (as you do not necessarily get all of the tick out with them) although I've never had any problem with them in doing the job, and I've just removed 22 of the little bastards from my body over the past 24 hours! Yes, that's right 22. I may not be finished with them yet! All the size of poppy seeds, all around my midriff, thighs and one that decided to get even more intimately acquainted with me - I just hope the swelling remains...

I had been botanising and moth-ing over the previous couple of days in bracken (Headley Heath) and boggy grassland (Thundry Meadows). I believe that I picked them up at Thundry Meadows, a place bedevilled with all sorts of large, biting flies. I've only come off worse in the Scottish Highlands with GBH due to assault by midges.

Most tick bites are harmless and will cause no further problems beyond giving some people the he-bee-gee-bees realising that they have been walking around with a vampire attached to them for a few hours. But some ticks can carry Lyme disease, a bacterial infection which, if left untreated, can lead to a life of debilitating illness.

The image above was taken in 2012, and is a tick that I found in my navel. It is engorged with my blood and, after a few days, a red ring appeared around the site. This is an early sign of Lyme disease. I went off to the doctors and was given a course of antibiotics. Six years later and I have had no suggestion of any symptoms. I was unlucky to have developed LD but fortunate to have known the signs in doing so.

So, if you are 'ticked', quickly remove the WHOLE tick. Bathe and clean the area. Look for any sign of activity (ie red ring, feeling 'flu-like') and if you do, seek immediate medical attention. If you act promptly then everything will be fine.

I will now endeavour to wear long-trousers when out in such habitats, tuck them into my socks and refrain from lying out across the ground. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to carry on with my body search. I bet there's at least another little sod lurking somewhere!

STOP PRESS: Two more found - I reckon some are so small that I'm not being able to see them until they have fed for a while and subsequently increased in size.

10 comments:

  1. Steve,
    Ticks are a "par for the course" part of fishing the Scottish Lochs. I have had numerous encounters with these unpleasant "hitch hikers". The best way, in my experience, to remove them is a squirt of Linx antideodororant. Apparently it's the alcohol in the mix that does it. Knowing how much I drink, it's difficult to understand why they'd choose on me in the first place? - Dyl

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    1. A much longer squirt of the Lynx then Dyl! Good tip!

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  2. Steve
    All of thay sounds wonderfully horrible.
    Fortunately I've never got ticks before and hopefully it stays like that!
    I know that ticks will come off and often die at any temperature below -2C so that's another way to get rid of them without tweezers it necessary!
    Heard there was a Quail at Canons Farm today? Was that unconfirmed?

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    1. Arjun, experienced birder Geoff Barter heard a possible in the distance.

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    2. Oh right, might head down there anyway when I get a chance!

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  3. Skye, a naturalist's paradise. May I present to you a vast array of ticks, horseflies, mosquitoes and not forgetting the infamous Highland Midge. 22 (or even 24) ticks is a heavy infestation. I seem to be lucky in only gathering a tick per month, despite wandering through jungles of bracken and acres of sheep pasture. I thank skinny jeans, high alcohol blood levels and roguish good looks...ahem...

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    1. As you know Seth, you top trump me on roguish good looks!

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  4. Bloody hell Steve, in all my years wandering about in tick country I've only ever found the one on me, while my dogs have many times had them. A bigger concern for me at the moment, when visiting my partner in Surrey, is that a dog has recently died from contacting Alabama Rot in the woods near her. It's a fairly new disease that is found in muddy areas in woods, which causes open sores on the dogs legs and if not spotted in the first day or so, is mostly fatal. So no visits to the woods and heath there now. As far as I know it doesn't affect humans.

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    1. Derek, having just welcomed a puppy into the household that is very interesting to know. Thank you.

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  5. The site in question was Hawley Woods, near Blackwater, which is close to Sandhurst.

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