June 26, 2019
Outdoors Latest News | Kendall Chick | Bangor Metro | Sara Gideon | Today's Paper

Being a tick magnet can make your skin crawl

James Gathany | AP
James Gathany | AP
In this photo, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a blacklegged tick - also known as a deer tick, rests on a plant. The extended winter of 2017-2018 on the East Coast doesn't seem to have done much to impact ticks, whose numbers are expect to be similar to last year. Dog walkers and runners are already talking of spotting plenty of the blood suckers.

I am, I have learned, a tick magnet. Let that sink in for a moment. Not, as we used to say back in the entirely inappropriate 1980s, a “chick magnet.” A tick magnet.

That’s not a good thing. And as you sit there, quivering with fear, revulsion and disgust, let me assure you that I’m feeling a little bit squirmy, too.

Because once you start finding ticks crawling on your neck (yup) or your arm (yup), or perched on the sun visor in your car (more on that in a minute), every little mole, itch and mild skin irritation instantly becomes a tick that needs immediate eradication.

First a disclaimer: I realize that ticks, and the diseases they spread, are serious business. I also realize that if I don’t find a way to laugh my way out of these recent tick interactions, I’m going to lose it. So please, bear with me.

[What to expect for this year’s tick season in Maine]

My troubles really began a few years back, when I learned that the suburban ticks around my home were becoming bold, and every time I weeded the flowerbeds or spent any time outside, they’d hop on, hitch a ride inside, and dig in for a snack. Then, come 3 a.m. or so, I’d roll over in bed, feel the burn, and basically freak out.

I may or may not have actually scraped a tick-sized mole off my own skin in one such fit.

In the years since, the ticks have become relentless, and any outdoor activity is bound to stir up a few of the creepy-crawlies. Luckily, I’ve become super-aware (or, perhaps, ultra-squeamish), and I seem to have become adept at feeling their presence before they truly hunker down.

Of course, I may be fooling myself, and perhaps I’m not as adept at tick detection as I think. I am, after all, not small. And there are, after all, plenty of places on my south side that I might not be able to see, should a tick be lurking there. (I know, I know. Ignore the fact that you read this paragraph. It’ll keep you up at night if you don’t).

Luckily, all of the ticks mentioned in this column have been the not-so-threatening dog ticks, rather than the disease-carrying deer ticks.

Not that they’re any more endearing, of course.

In any case, after about 50 tick-free years on this planet, the past half-dozen or so have become pretty eventful on the tick front. And recently, things got even worse.

[How to protect yourself from ticks in Maine]

It all started last week, when I spent one final day in the tick woods (oops. I meant to say “turkey woods”) to spend one final day trying to find a bird. At the end of that fruitless session, I packed up my ground blind, my pack and my chair, and headed for home.

Once there, I bailed out, locked up, and left my turkey-hunting gear in the car.

Pro tip: If you’re looking to make a tick terrarium, leaving a ground blind that has been out in the woods for a month in a warm vehicle for a few days is as good a method as any. Trust me.

On Sunday, after providing my tick community a couple of calm days to do whatever ticks do, I hopped back in my car, drove down the road, and immediately felt something ticky going on. Sure enough, one was marching across my hand. Later that day, also while driving, I felt one scurrying across my neck.

Feeling itchy yet? Me, too.

On Monday, shortly after I arrived at work, a colleague noticed a tick crawling on his clothing. Full disclosure: I had recently driven to the office and had just walked past his desk.

For a day or so, I let him think that he was the tick magnet. Now I’ve got to face facts, and admit that the little bugger probably just hopped off me onto him. Typhoid Mary’s got nothing on me, apparently.

I thought that I’d grown somewhat blase about ticks, but on Tuesday, even I got a case of the heebie-jeebies. On the drive to work, I noticed another tick, perched on the sun visor, just a convenient hop from my head. Taunting me.

And finally, I admitted that I was the victim of a major infestation, and needed to act. At lunchtime, I drove straight home, unloaded all of that hunting gear that had been harboring the critters (I hope), and washed my hands of the entire affair.

Of course, it wasn’t so simple.

On my return trip to the office, I spied another tick — an especially bold one at that — clinging to the inside of passenger-side windshield — that’s the tick version of “riding shotgun,” I suppose.

And now, here I sit, dreading the ride home. And going to sleep at night. And those phantom itches in the middle of the night.

Again.

It’s not easy being a tick magnet.

Watch: Here’s one way to find ticks in your yard

John Holyoke can be reached at jholyoke@bangordailynews.com or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” will be released by Islandport Press in October.

 



Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

You may also like