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.