Back in the halcyon days of my youth I spent many a day roaming southern Ohio’s fields, woods, and streams, and it was routine to be bitten occasionally by mosquitoes and/or ticks. The mosquitoes caused an itchy bite that required scratching, and the ticks were removed by applying a hot match or cigarette butt to their posteriors which made them let loose to be stepped on. My friends and I didn’t really care — they were just a part of outdoor living.
It’s not like that today. In our modern era a tick or mosquito bite can be dangerous if not deadly, and both should be avoided at all costs. Especially ticks. In my teens these were an occasional nuisance, but today in some places they’ve multiplied for various reasons to be an actual plague. I talked this spring to a naturalist who worked out of Coshocton County. He told of hiking for a day in his county’s woods and fields and returning home to find 19 ticks crawling on his body. None had dug in yet, and he quickly removed them.
A reader more recently sent me photos of a young deer he’d seen in Richland County that was literally covered with ticks, and was so weakened from loss of blood that it probably died. And I’ve heard reports of even moose as far north as Alaska whose fur literally crawled with the noxious little beasts. Why are they more of a hazard today, then in the 50’s and before? Because they cause some diseases that are definitely scary.
Mosquitoes can infect humans with West Nile Virus which in turn can cause encephalitis, and ticks can cause Lyme Disease among other problems. Last year there were almost 300 cases of the disease in Ohio, but The Doctors Report on Illness Tracer showed a whopping 850,000 cases nationwide last year, which means we’re likely to have more, maybe a lot more this year.
There are several kinds of ticks living in Ohio that can cause disease. The American Dog Tick can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia. The black-legged tick bites might transmit Lyme Disease and several others that you’ve probably never heard of. And the Brown Dog Tick also transmits Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Most animals simply suffer when tick or mosquito biters occur but there’s one animal that fights back, the opossum. They’re tick killing machines, and studies show that one possum can kill as many as 4,000 ticks in a week, simply because they’re very good at grooming and killing the little beasts.
What can you do about handling the mosquito and tick problem on your hiking, boating, fishing, hunting, and camping adventures? The answer should be obvious. When going into woods, fields, or water areas, spray yourself thoroughly with an insect repellent containing at least 20 percent Deet and repeat the treatment every few hours you’re out there.
Treat your clothing with 0.5 percent permethrin which will repel ticks, and wear long sleeved shirts and long pants, uncomfortable or not. Then when you get home, strip down and check yourself over thoroughly for unwelcome riders. A simple solution, but it works.
Dick Martin is a retired biology teacher who has been writing outdoor columns for over 30 years. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Martin writes a weekly column published in The Logan Daily News. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.