Saturday, August 16, 2014

Seed Tick Country

Generally, as a rule, the only time I really use trail systems in Missouri's natural places is during seed tick season. As an asocial melancholic, I don't like seeing other people when I visit nature, so I avoid weekends and trails. But during seed tick season, I am somewhat and vaguely grateful for trails. Still, only between Mondays and Thursdays when few others recreate outdoors.

In the past few years, there has developed in Missouri a growing hysteria about the dangers of visiting nature: bears! mountain lions! snakes! rocky trails and twisted ankles! dehydration! I've always maintained that driving to nature is more dangerous than anything in nature, and I am certainly more wary of tick borne illness than I am of venomous snakes. But it doesn't keep me out of the woods. Seed tick season, however, is brutal. With the Ozarks' ever-burgeoning deer herd, ticks seem to be increasing in abundance. Regardless of my habit of wearing light colored trousers with duct taped ankles, seed ticks still manage to find their way to my torso and ankles. So I try not to bust through too much brush in August. Two steps off a trail at the toeslope of a glade and five big slugs of thousands of seed ticks scatter all over my trousers and ankles. Swatting them off with a big cedar branch helps, and if I liked my boots and wore them more often than I wear my running shoes, the tiny ticks wouldn't find their way through my simple cotton socks, but I don't wear my boots much. So I deal with seed ticks.

Nevertheless, seed tick infestation is preventable, and I have little empathy for hikers who wear shorts and flip flops to the woods in August. And regardless of the threat of ticks (and snakes and spiders and mountain lions and bobcats and bears and trees falling and stepping on natural tread that might twist an ankle...), there is nothing that will keep me from witnessing the explosive display of the yellow composites in August.


Anonymous said...

It's rough out there this time of year but worth it to see the asters, desmodiums, and others in bloom.

I've gotten to the point where I trek through the woods with my knee-high rubber boots and loosely duct tape the top rims to my pants. Not the most comfortable but they do not seem to 'deploy' or cling to the rubber boot...just the knee and above on the white pants where I can spot them.

Hard to avoid the rank grasses where deer and thus ticks congregate.

Allison Vaughn said...

Rubber boots are where it's at, just danged hot. Really hot. Even my fire boots are really hot. I certainly won't go backpacking cross country in the Ozarks until late October....

Allison Vaughn said...

Thanks Alicia for the following comment! I've been nervous about buying any of those scary chemicals but good to hear they work!

I gave up a lot of my hiking in Missouri because of ticks but this year I discovered something which may change that. I am converting my yard into as much of a nature sanctuary as is possible in 2/3 of an acre and more ticks has been one of the outcomes. I discovered that permethrin is the answer. I bought a 32 ounce bottle of pure permethrin (make sure you get the one that is a 10% concentration and is not the SFR as the SFR has hydrocarbons that are bad news for you. I made this mistake). Mix up 2 ounces of the permethrin to 30 ounces in a 32-ounce spray bottle and then spray the heck out of your clothes-- socks included. Let them dry (but not in the sun as the sun breaks the permethrin down). Your clothes are good for several weeks and several washings, although I'm so paranoid I spray after each washing. Ticks will not go near them. One person put a tick on his pants and said within 2 minutes it was dead. Permethrin is a potent neurotoxin for insects. It's also bad for fish and cats but not dogs or people. When placed on our skin, our skin neutralizes it, so it must be placed on clothing and cannot be used on the face or other skin like a DEET insecticide. Once dried, it is safe from our skin somehow. You can buy the same stuff from sporting goods and outdoor stores. It comes as a kit and it is many times more expensive that way than the 32 ounce bottle you mix up to the strength you want. At any rate, no ticks since I began using it and no mosquito or chigger bites, either. I have always been a walking chigger buffet so the relief has been tremendous. Now I enjoy being in the garden again and think I'll venture back into Missouri's wonderful nature. I love your blog, by the way. I think spending a day hiking with you would be a wonderful time and a real education, too.

Alicia said...

I should mention 3 things:
1) Permethrin is simply the synthetic version of pyrethrin which come from chrysanthemums. It's too expensive to make it in large quantities from the flowers. So it's not technically organic, but I feel like it's pretty darn close.
2) I've discovered that literally a couple of drops of my diluted solution can keep a tub of water mosquito-larvae free. Why do I have water? I catch rain water to water my native plant babies until I get them planted. I would not, of course, use this in a pond or other situation where there are beneficial insects as it would kill them, too.
3) My daughter got a Lone Star tick earlier this summer. We could NOT get that sucker off her. I finally got my spray that I use on the clothes and sprayed the tick. 2 minutes later, that tick was dead and came off her easily.

I think that the permethrin is pretty darn awesome stuff.

Allison Vaughn said...

Very good information, and convincing...

Travis Mohrman said...

None of the pyrethroids (especially the stuff you mix yourself or is specifically designed for clothing applications) should ever be sprayed on your bare skin.
While this chemicals do function well, the side effects are rather eyebrow raising and we truly don't fully understand the risks from repetitive long-term use, as is generally associated with insect repellents.