Lone Star TickWith the mild winter we had in SLAGA territory, we expect the ticks to be out in force this year! As a public service, we're reprinting part of a great article that Brawny Bear wrote a few years ago about ticks and how to avoid them. L Frank and I follow Brawny's advice and treat our caching clothes with Permethrin every year, and we swear by it. The brand we use is Hartz UltraGuard Plus Flea & Tick Home Spray. Here is an excerpt from Brawny's article:

So that some of the people new to caching and the outdoors understand the reality behind ticks, I have put together a primer to help you out. There is a great article in Backpacker magazine that covers ticks and how to avoid them.

When a tick buries its head into your skin, it forms a cement bond that keeps it in place while it excretes a chemical that breaks down tissue and allows them to absorb the blood and fluids they desire. There really isn't any documented length of time a tick can wait for a host. Some ticks will have several hosts as they morph from a nymph to an adult and others will have one host. Ticks have been known to live over 3 years, even through the dormant Winter, without ever attaching to a host.

A quick overview of the cycle of a tick is as follows...

Female lays eggs, Eggs become Larvae, Larvae attaches to birds or small mammals, Tick becomes a nymph, Nymph attaches to a host, Tick feeds until it becomes an adult, adult males detach and look for females usually on the host, male breeds and then drops and dies, female continues to feed, eventually dropping off and laying eggs. In some cases, the female will lay eggs on the host.

In Missouri, we have all 3 species of ticks.
1) Deer Tick - often called seed ticks and are very small. Females are bigger and often are 2 tone brown with the head and back being darker than the legs.
2) Lone Star Tick - Most common in Missouri. Females have a white dot on their back. This is where they get their name. A big misconception is the males have a spot too. This is not true. Males are the most common tick and often called a dog tick or brown tick. These ticks are more round than oval. Almost all ticks here in Missouri are Lone Stars.
3) The American Dog Tick - These are the largest ticks and they are more oval than the other ticks. The male and female are almost the same size. They are brown with darker brown spots on their backs. The adults are usually the ones
that feed on us and dogs.

Lone Star and Deer Ticks carry Lyme. Dog ticks do not but they can carry other diseases.


Wear Light Clothes when in the field. I can't stress this enough. People who head out into a field with dark clothes are going to get skin buried ticks. Light clothes has them show up easier and you can pick them off.

Tuck your pants into your socks and tape them with some duct tape if possible. This keeps them on the outside. Also wear shirts tucked in and make sure they are light colored as well. Some people talk about ticks dropping from trees overhead. While this may be possible, it is highly unlikely. These critters are ground dwellers that usually get no higher that a weed. Birds love to eat ticks so climbing a tree would be like marching into the oven.

Spray your clothes with Permethrin. You can buy Cutter's and other brands of this but I use Equate brand Bedding Spray from Wal-Mart. Same stuff only a buck cheaper. Spray clothes until moist and allow them to dry completely. Spray shoes, socks, pants, shirt, undies, etc... It will last a couple of washings and a few rainy days.

Carry a spare set of shoes, socks and pants in the vehicle. If you can, change clothes and place your clothes into a plastic bag and put them in the trunk. When you get home, pop them in the dryer on high for 10 minutes. This will ensure all hitchhikers are incinerated.

Do a tick check often. When you get home, have your significant other check for all sizes of ticks. Remember, some may be smaller then a pinhead. If you do not have someone that can check, use a mirror.

Obviously, avoiding high grass and marshy fields would be the way to go...

Tick Removal

There are several ways to remove a tick but the underlying principle is the same. Grasp as close to the head as possible and pull it gently upwards and outward until it comes out. Try and get the whole thing and do not squeeze the body when pulling. Tweezers work best. You can also put a straw over the tick body and slip a thread with an overhand knot down the straw. Tighten the knot under the straw until it is tight and then pull the tick out. I have never done this but I hear it keeps the tick from regurgitating and helps heal the wound quicker. Do not use polish, a match, or any other nonsense to remove the tick.
Wash the area with soapy water or alcohol and make sure you kill the tick. I flush em. Do not squeeze them! Wash your hands if you removed them barehanded.

I was out placing a cache today and was wearing my favorite white pants. I had close to 150 ticks that I flicked off my pants and I really didn't bushwhack that much. I had them from tiny to full adults. Just keep in mind that by late summer or early fall, they are usually gone. Another misconception is that we have to have a frost or freeze before they are gone. Not true, they go dormant in the fall regardless of temperature. However, the later the heat lasts, especially with rain, the longer the tick season.

Don't let your summer caching fun get spoiled by these little buggers.. Just take the proper steps and have fun...

Now Chiggers! Well, that's a different story!