The ticks of the north woods

Here we are again. It’s woodtick season.
I imagine most folk think of ticks as insects. Well, they aren’t. They are related to spiders, scorpions, mites, and so on, all of which are classified as Arachnids.
Arachnids have either eight or 10 legs while insects get along with only six.
Most ticks have a life cycle something like this. The female lays several thousand eggs, often in the grass. They hatch in a week or two into what are called larvae.
These larvae do their best to attach themselves to a passing animal (dog, deer, or whatever). They feed on blood, and then change to an eight-legged nymph. These feed again, then drop off, and change into the adult form.
At this stage, they much prefer the larger animals (deer, cattle, and moose). The adult female attaches herself firmly to her “host,” where she takes in enough blood to make her swell up a great deal. She may become half or three-quarters of an inch long, and look like a tiny blue garbage bag.
Mating takes place while she is attached. Then she drops off, lays her 5,000 or 6,000 eggs, and the cycle begins again.
A common tick on moose is the Moose Tick (Dermacentor albipictus), which also lives on cattle, horses, and deer. These are very large ticks, and can sometimes be found in very large numbers on animals in the fall.
A tick of the southern states is the Cattle Tick (Boophilus annulatus). In warm climates, it breeds most of the year. Not only does this animal harm cattle directly but it spreads a disease called Texas Fever.
Ranchers have to dip their cattle, and change pasture land, to keep this pest under control.
As far as I know, the most common tick in this part of the world is the Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis). As the name suggests, it attaches itself very easily to dogs, especially those with long hair.
This tick is not yet known to transmit any violent disease but its close relative to the west, the Rocky Mountain Tick, can carry spotted fever to humans.
There are no completely adequate ways to deal with ticks. Try to stay out of the long grass and low bushes, and keep your dog out, too, if you can.
If a tick has dug in, various methods of removal have been suggested. Bring a match, or a heated nail or a pin, up to the tick’s exposed end. Some people say a few drops of gasoline or turpentine will do it.
The aim is to get the tick to release his hold by himself. If you just yank him off, some of his mouth parts may stay under your skin.
You should always use some kind of antiseptic after you remove a tick. While no known bad diseases are transmitted here as yet, there is always a risk of some minor infection getting under your skin, along with the tick.
Happily, the tick season here is quite short so you need to be careful for only about a month or so.

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