Lone Star Tick Explosion

For Mother’s Day, we did one of our favorite family activities: a five-mile hike through the lovely Harris Lake Park here in North Carolina’s Piedmont region. The sky was a little overcast (it even sprinkled on us for a few minutes), the temperatures mild, and the company divine.

It was a blissfully serene day … except for the ticks. We had a really mild winter (thank you Lord) and hot early spring, so our flora is already pretty grown for this time of year. So, it seems, are the pests.

The ticks are really bad this year. It’s like a tick bomb went off. We had our wonder beagle, Maggie May, with us, and between her and the mister, we probably pulled 30 ticks off on the trail and once we got back home. And ohmygod, they’re nasty.

As gross as it is to run across bug and tick photos online, I was curious about the variety that was ambushing us. They all seemed to be pretty big for mid-May, and they all had white dots on their nasty little backs. Once upon a time, I heard an old wives tale that the dots indicated ticks carrying Lyme Disease, so I figured it was worth a little shuddering. Though, my legs are full of phamtom creepy-crawlies.

Looks like the Lone Star Tick was on the prowl. Here’s what NCSU’s Department of Entomology (part of the NC agricultural extension office) has to say:

Bites from the lonestar tick can result in an illness called STARI (Southern Tick Associated Rash Infection) which exhibits a rash similar in appearance to that seen with Lyme Disease. However, this disease is not caused by the same organism that causes Lyme Disease nor has it been linked to the same arthritic, neurological, or chronic symptoms associated with Lyme Disease. The lone star tick also transmits bacteria that cause erhlichiosis. It occurs predominantly in the coastal plain, but it may be found in the North Carolina Piedmont.

So be on guard. There’s a right way and a wrong way to remove ticks. Here are a few tips from the extension office:

  • To avoid ticks that may be on grass and shrubs, stay on wide paths and roads when possible.
  • When you’ve been in a tick-infested area, examine your clothing and body at least twice a day. (By the way, check all of your bits and pieces, too.)
  • Use tweezers to remove ticks; grasp the body of the attached tick firmly and, without twisting or jerking, pull directly away from the point of attachment.
  • Wash the bite area with soap and water, and then apply rubbing alcohol.
  • Make a note of the date you were bitten, and watch for signs of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Lyme Disease. Preserve the tick in rubbing alcohol in case you do get sick. The doctors may want to see it.

And two truths we have discovered through the years: wear a hat with a wide brim to keep them out of your hair … and the boys get ticks 10 to 1 over me because I shave my legs (there’s nowhere for them to grab onto). For a full listing of How to Protect Yourself from Ticks, and the Procedure for Removing Ticks, check out NCSU’s Department of Entomology.