Minnesota’s summer clock more ticks than tocks

Ticks!

Two wood ticks and a deer tick next to a dime. (PHOTO: David Bosshard, Flickr CC)

I’ve heard a version of the following statement from several different people this year:

“I’m not worried about lightning, thunderstorms or tornados, but I am worried about ticks.”

This from the hearty meat-and-potatoes stock of Northern Minnesota, people who chip ice off their beards to eat food they killed with a crossbow. You know it’s got to be bad.

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

It’s tick season here, otherwise known as “everything that isn’t winter.” And if you’ve never felt the creepy-crawly tickle of a tick skittering up your leg or neck, well, count yourself lucky, city slicker. Out here it comes standard with the real estate.

Ticks are parasites. They suck blood. And if that was all they did I wouldn’t be talking about them. We have plenty of parasites that suck blood around here, most of which can be swatted away or voted out of office if we so choose.

Ticks carry diseases. Or, even more frustratingly, some ticks carry some diseases. Your big American dog ticks (a.k.a. wood ticks) are pretty harmless. Still, they might cause skin irritation and a very small chance at Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. I must stress that this is not a spicy, mellow variety of marijuana, but in fact a bacterial infection that can damage your kidneys and heart.

But even if all we had were wood ticks I still wouldn’t be talking about ticks right now. The “reason for the seasonal awareness” is our old friend the black-legged tick, a.k.a. the bear tick, a.k.a. its most common name, the deer tick.

Like all ticks, the deer tick goes through life cycles. What makes this tick so tricky is that she’s most dangerous in her nymph stage, a time when the black-legged tick is less than 1/16 inch wide. Having found them crawling on me at that size, I can attest that they are very hard to see. And when they attach it can take days to realize they’re there.

The black-legged tick is best known for spreading Lyme Disease, a terrible bacterial condition that includes symptoms that match hundreds of other things, ranging from the common cold to arthritis to a heart attack. No two people experience the disease exactly the same way, so Lyme Disease is frustrating to diagnose without a lab test. Untreated, it can linger for decades and every year it kills people.

You might be interested to know that ticks are arachnids, eight leggers just like spiders. However, unlike spiders, ticks don’t catch bugs, build beautiful webs or save fictional pigs from certain death. Instead, they wait on thin blades of grass for days hoping for one momentary opportunity to crawl directly into your butt crack.

That’s what we’re dealing with here.

So, yeah, ticks are scary. Might I point out that they are also flammable and if you flush them down the toilet they do not come back.

The most basic advise for dealing with ticks is to be careful in the woods and grassy areas. Keep your pants tucked into your socks if you must. Try to force ticks onto the outside of your clothing, where they can be spotted, as opposed to providing ticks a hot wet highway to the promised land underneath. Check for ticks when you get home, and don’t be stingy about checking out symptoms.

You can read the Minnesota Health Department’s guide for tick borne disease prevention, including identification of ticks and symptoms of diseases, at the Minnesota Department of Health web page.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to check for ticks. You should do the same.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, May 28, 2017 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Comments

  1. David Gray says:

    When I grew up there was no Lyme Disease in the ticks we had up here. I’d be interested to read a discussion on how this changed.

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