Take tick bites seriously when gardening
Posted: Tuesday, July 1, 2008 8:46 pm
By: By JIMMY WILLIAMS Special to The Messenger
With the heat of summer, varmints of every description are on the move.
Blackberry season opens this week, with the first ripening berries, and along with them come chiggers. Now chiggers aren’t the most deadly of vermin, but they attack in the most undignified places. You can’t even scratch in public. The best treatment is Ak-Quik, a long-time firebrand elixir that fixes anything from chigger bites to — almost — rattlesnake bites.
My mother took undiluted delight in applying daubs of Ak-Quik to any exposed insect bite or scratch. I don’t know the secret ingredients of this snake oil, but I suspect it is mostly kerosene and Tabasco sauce.
McKinnon went into hysterics, tearing up everything in sight and streaking toward a 55-gallon drum of water with spigot attached. He turned his — er — crotch skyward and turned on the soothing water onto his — er — crotch. He later was sent home for further treatment and counseling.
At any rate, chiggers aren’t the only worrisome insects and arachnids to keep us on our toes during summer. Far more serious are ticks.
We have — unfortunately — a host of tick varieties in this area, ranging from the almost microscopic seed ticks, hosted mostly by deer, on up to the spotted larger varieties and then on up again to common dog ticks. None of them warrant ignoring when they bite you.
Ticks gravitate to me likes bees to honey or — more likely — like blue-bottle flies to you know what. I will average 10 or more bites a week in hot weather, just from gardening in our borders or even walking on the lawn.
They finally caught up with me a few weeks ago when I came down with a fever. No other symptoms except for some minor joint aches and pains. My assistant brow-beat me into going to the doctor when the fever reached 103 degrees.
After examining my bite-riddled body, the good Dr. Jim quickly disgnosed my malady as a tick fever of some sort, but not Lyme disease, thank goodness.
Dr. Jim took blood tests which showed low platelets and white blood count, both symptoms of tick fever. These various strains of tick fever can generally be treated successfully if caught early. My regimen was 10 days of antibiotics and a repeat visit to the lab to re-check the blood tests.
The fever subsided quickly with the antibiotic treatment, but a washed-out feeling persisted for some weeks, and even to this day tiring is a problem. Part of that, however, goes with the territory as one ages.
Newer insecticides are more pleasant to apply than the older, sticky, ones. Various brands contain one active ingredient or another, but one of the most effective is commonly called Deet and is included in many brands of aerosol and rub-on products.
Other effective treatments include a product that is applied to clothing and is reputed to last up to a month, even with laundering.
Another solution for gardeners who are getting infested with ticks on their home grounds is to treat the whole area with an insecticide spray from a two-gallon sprayer or, in the case of larger grounds, a back-pack four-gallon sprayer.
This works well and will kill every tick that comes into contact with the insecticide. Flower and shrub borders and groundcover areas should be saturated well.
For an even more effective treatment, commercial pesticide companies can spray your grounds for ticks, just as they do for a heavy infestation of fleas in hot summer weather.
Turkey hunters, fishermen and others who are venturing into different areas each time out must, of course, depend on personal protection.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 7.1.08
Garden Path, Jimmy Williams