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It's Going To be a Bad Year For Ticks

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April 23, 2012

It's Going To be a Bad Year For Ticks

By Chad Love

Do you have a favorite parasite in your life? Some mooching blood-sucking, free-loading friend or relative who's sucking you dry, but just won't leave? Then send them a gift-wrapped hint with one of these awesome and cuddly plush dolls from www.giantmicrobes.com.

Since this is a gundogs blog, how about a giant tick plush doll? Or perhaps a cute little flea? If that's not creepy enough, how about a darling bed bug? A louse? Maggot, maybe? Yes, it's fairly disgusting, but today I have bloodsuckers on the mind. Why? Because I just got in from a walk with the dogs, and picked up an astounding number of hitchhikers. It's going to be a bad tick year. Blame rain and winter warmth.

I reside just a few miles east of the 100th Meridian, that historical dividing line between the arid shortgrass prairie that lies west of the 100th and the semi-arid mixed-grass country to the east. My area averages a little over 20 inches of precipitation a year. Last year, however, was anything but average. In 2011, according to the rain gauge at my house, we received slightly less than 12 inches of rain for the entire year, combined with Mars-like summer temps for record-setting lengths of time. As a result, virtually all of my dog training, duck hunting and bird hunting got cooked away last year.

There was, however, a small silver lining: Not once did I get bitten by a mosquito, nor did I ever find a tick on any of my dogs. Granted, I have my dogs on heartworm and flea/tick medication year-round, regardless of the weather, but still, it's unusual to not find any ticks at all, even on treated dogs. The mosquitoes (and subsequent heartworm risk) is easily explained away: no standing water, no winged vermin. The lack of ticks last year? I'm no expert on pestilence, but I suspect the lack of moisture and the heat had at least something to do with it.

But oh, what a difference a year makes. This year, according to the rain gauge at my house, we've received almost 13 inches of rain (more than all of last year) since the end of January, when the skies suddenly opened up and began making up for lost time. The lakes and ponds are full, the prairie is lush, and big chunks of the southern plains that last year resembled the planet Dune now look more like Ireland.

But there's a price to pay for all that moisture. Huge, primordial clouds of mosquitoes, with larva-infested standing water everywhere. And all that lush grass? Every blade of it covered with blood-sucking little buggers, just waiting to hitch a ride. And it's not just where I live. While it may seem a cruel joke for all you northeasterners under winter storm warnings right now, but this past nationwide non-winter means flea, tick and heartworm season is going to be especially bad this year for gundog owners.

I live in a relatively not-too-bad tick area, and I normally get by with just the monthly dose of my preferred topical flea/tick medication, heartworm meds and that's it. In mild years I find I can even stretch that out a little farther between dosings, because that stuff 'aint cheap. But not this year. Based on what I've experienced so far, I'm thinking I may have to combine a topical treatment with a collar to keep the ticks off my dogs. I can only imagine how you guys in the northeast and south are going to have it this year.

What's the flea/tick situation in your area this year, and what's the best way you've found to deal with it? Topical treatment? Collar? Combo? How about treatment of your yard/kennel area? Any tips or suggestions?

Comments (22)

Top Rated
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from Sayfu wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

They are thick as flees here in Idaho this year, and they carry Lime Disease as well. Our mosquitos are bad as well, and they carry Lime Disease. You darn near wish one of our Grizzlies would attack you before one of those other critters gets you. Not safe to go fishing in Idaho this Summer! No sirrrie Bob !!!!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RichardPollack wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

This is a good time to bring up these issues. Finding and promptly removing ticks (from a person or pet) can dramatically reduce risk of infection. Once the tick has been removed, have it identified. Only certain kinds of ticks can transmit the agents of Lyme disease, babesiosis and anaplasmosis. Other ticks may transmit other infections. The longer the tick is attached, the greater the risk of infection. Physical samples can be sent, or digital images uploaded, for a rapid, confidential, independent and expert evaluation. For more educational information and help with identification, visit https://identify.us.com.
Richard Pollack, PhD (IdentifyUS LLC)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I hate ticks, stink bugs and poison ivy. I think the Great Sprit may have been hungover the day he thought them up. Conversely; Snakes? Ok by me.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

i had no idea that moisture had anything to do with the amount of ticks from year to year. i had rocky mountain spotted tick fever when i was a kid and to say it really, really, really sucked is an understatement! protect yourself as much as you do your dog!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bruisedsausage wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Ticks don't bother me any longer. But use Permethrin spray. DEET is a joke for ticks, although it tends to work well with mosquitoes. Permethrin is a chemical developed from the chrysanthemum family of plants. Your wife might even have a few growing around the house. But try explaining that you need flowers to go hunting lol, and don't point the finger at me if you get caught harvesting flowers =). At any rate use the permethrin spray. The manufacturer says that one application will last up to two weeks, but I find that you'll more than likely be using it more frequently than that. I keep my hunting duds separate from the rest of my stuff, as the permethrin is some bad stuff when in concentrated form. I also wouldn't recommend spraying the dog either. Get him a collar and buy a small bottle of cedar oil.(should note that some people have allergic reactions to it!) but most "bugs" in general don't like the stuff and will try to stay away from it. Just put a little on a paper towel and run it over the dog. In fact I like the nice aroma it has. Its also usually safe to eat(probably wouldn't taste very good) There are a plethora of different types available.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Pray- hunt-work wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Here in Maine the ticks were showing themselves by the first week of march. An average year, I start seeing them around the first of may. They are SOLID this year to say the least. I treat the dogs, pet them down every day for their safety and pleasure of course. On the property we burn the fields just around the house which helps alot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Chiggers and ticks going to be bad? ARE BAD! And the poison oak & ivy is everywhere!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I forget to tell you about the poison Ivy, and Oak we have here in Idaho as well. I also forgot tell you an omission I made about our ticks as well...they've morphed! Many are now 9 lbs when fully grown, and 3ft long like those rats in Florida! Not a year to be fishing in the state of Idaho, least not near my river!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from redfishunter wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Ticks are horrible this year in the South. A wildlife biologist was explaining to me that it is a result of the mice, which carry more ticks than deer and other wildlife. There was a good acorn crop last year, thus the mice numbers skyrocketed. When the mouse population boomed so did the ticks. Bad acorn crop this year. Less mice. Still have the ticks.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from CastMaster25 wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Ticks will be going nuts here in PA! We use heartworm, topical medication, and flea/tick collars. The flea/tick collars aren't used at all times during the hunting season. We usually put them on 3 days before we go out for a hunt or before a club training session.

Since the tick levels will be so high this spring/summer I believe I will have them wear the collars more often. Anything to keep those things from latching on!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Upstate NY--Picking ticks off the cat already. Fleas are out.

GeeWhiz: There are no fleas in Montana.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from muddymudskippa wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

@redfishhunter - Excellent comment but there is a bit of lag time in the population growth of rodents and subsequently the ticks. So, roughly two seasons after a mast year should be bad, in theory. It is in line with what Chad is saying, with all of the rain on the prairie, the plants have higher productivity and thus the rodents have higher reproduction rates becuase of a larger food source and/or are able to better find cover from predators, maybe.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Redford wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I took my 4yo daughter, wife and dog to catch catfish on southern champlain, near Benson landing, a MONTH ago and my daughter, wife, and dog all got into ticks.

I sent the ones on my wife and kid to the laboratory to get tested. I got the bill a week later and am still waiting on results! They were all deer ticks which are the ones that carry LD.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Deet does indeed appear to be an energy drink for ticks. I suppose that they are absolutely the worst thing about spring turkey hunting, along with redbugs (AKA: chiggers) and snakes. Makes me wonder why I even bother when it greens up and the weather heats up.
Tell me if I am correct, deer ticks are smaller than dog ticks and can be identified by a telltale white spot on their back. They are the ones humans can contract Lyme Disease from. Once you contract Lyme disease, you have it forever and a second exposure (from a tick bite) exacerbates the symptoms. How much of this is correct?

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from RockySquirrel wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

RES1956; Yep. Deer ticks are smaller. than dog ticks. Deer ticks carry Lyme. Lyme is treatable until (and I may be wrong about this), it passes the blood/brain barrier and gets inside your head/brain, where no common antibiotic can reach.

There is supposed to be a suit (like long undies) that a tick can't penetrate. Forgot the name. Anyone heard of it or tried it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

RSquirrel: I believe the long undies you are referring to are a Rhino suit. I tried one when turkey hunting some years ago at a spot in MO that was the 2nd worst place for ticks I've ever hunted (tx ranch was the worst). Although they felt like compression sox all over my body (how can anyone wear those tight UnderArmor first layers is beyond me), the Rhino seemed to work well until I had to take a midday pit stop and had to drop trow to hit the head. Unknown to me, a hitchhiking blood sucker must have been on my outer clothes and when I did my tick check that night the only one on me was at my waist.

I have used permethrin when turkey hunting in TX but that stuff is poisonous to the touch and stinks as well. If you put it on clothes you intend to use when hunting deer, elk, hog, or other critters with good olfactory senses, it will require numerous washings in non-scent soap to come close to getting rid of the smell. Yeah, I know, "play the wind" but every little bit helps.

A few years ago, I decided my meat-less rear end could not stand anymore sitting on a cushion on the ground and purchased an Everest turkey lounger. it is a little bit of a pain to carry but I can sit for as long as needed now. A wonderful side effect is that I get far fewer ticks sitting a few inches up off the ground. I let my hunting partner sit in a TX mesquite blind the day after I killed a gobbler in the same spot without getting a single tick. He didn't get a turkey but picked up nearly 50 ticks, some of which were still on him as we drove back to the airport in San Antonio the next day (after 2 showers!).

BTW, I live in FLA and we are in a 2-yr drought; not many ticks this year but the fleas are picking up.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

Thanks Longbeard. Last rifle deer season, they were all over where I was posted. And that was after a number of frosts. They just don't seem to die after the first killing frost anymore.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

Rocky: Frost hardened ticks, eh? Evolution in action?

Or...on another trip to the same TX ranch, another friend sat down next to another tank. After only a few minutes, he realized he was covered by literally hundreds of tiny ticks. He freaked, as anyone would. I met him back at the truck some time later and saw that he had his shirt off. It's not often you see a 60+year old man with his shirt off in the middle of mesquite and cactus of Hill Country, but it was a really hot day and I assumed that since he was pouring water over himself, he just wanted to cool off. No, he was trying to wash all those ticks off his body. He was really rattled, too, unusual for a guy who had been a chopper pilot in 'Nam and flown large passenger jets for Pan Am and Eastern (back in the day, obviously).

When we got back to camp, the ranch manager told us that entire underground nests of ticks can survive for years without any sustenance, but lay in wait for the next opportunity to feed. Unfortunately for my buddy, he was probably the first meal those nasty buggers had smelled in a long time (even though the ranch has a large working cattle operation, is practically over run with deer, turkey, coyotes, and all kinds of small game). After that, I could not persuade him to go back to that ranch with me. Sadly, it ended up being the last time I hunted with him even though we had hunted MX and Argentina for years before that.

So maybe your first frosts are not severe enough to get to subterranean tick nests. Maybe it takes longer, colder snaps to kill the little vampires when they're underground. Makes sense to me.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

Thanks Longbeard. I hate the damn things. I think I may have freaked also. Maybe I was wrong. I could have sworn the front did them in. In any case, they war active an happy in mid december and there was (some) snow on the ground.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

Wow, Rocky, snow on the ground! that IS surprising! maybe they were wearing UnderArmor base layers.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 1 year 46 weeks ago

I also have seen a rise in tick populations here in NE Ohio. Last years I read an article in medical journal that said a person could repel ticks mosquitoes, chiggers and fleas by using ordinary mouthwash like lysterine. The eucalyptus oil is what protects against these insects. I tried last year and it really seem to work. I saturate my outer clothes with it and let it dry. It will stay on your clothes for about a week And is easy to wash out. I also use on my beagles with no ill affects Also make your clothes smell "Minty Fresh" lol

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from habben97 wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

one time I found a tick on myself, so i put it in a small container, took out my stoeger 20 gauge and let fly!

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Sayfu wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

They are thick as flees here in Idaho this year, and they carry Lime Disease as well. Our mosquitos are bad as well, and they carry Lime Disease. You darn near wish one of our Grizzlies would attack you before one of those other critters gets you. Not safe to go fishing in Idaho this Summer! No sirrrie Bob !!!!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RichardPollack wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

This is a good time to bring up these issues. Finding and promptly removing ticks (from a person or pet) can dramatically reduce risk of infection. Once the tick has been removed, have it identified. Only certain kinds of ticks can transmit the agents of Lyme disease, babesiosis and anaplasmosis. Other ticks may transmit other infections. The longer the tick is attached, the greater the risk of infection. Physical samples can be sent, or digital images uploaded, for a rapid, confidential, independent and expert evaluation. For more educational information and help with identification, visit https://identify.us.com.
Richard Pollack, PhD (IdentifyUS LLC)

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bruisedsausage wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Ticks don't bother me any longer. But use Permethrin spray. DEET is a joke for ticks, although it tends to work well with mosquitoes. Permethrin is a chemical developed from the chrysanthemum family of plants. Your wife might even have a few growing around the house. But try explaining that you need flowers to go hunting lol, and don't point the finger at me if you get caught harvesting flowers =). At any rate use the permethrin spray. The manufacturer says that one application will last up to two weeks, but I find that you'll more than likely be using it more frequently than that. I keep my hunting duds separate from the rest of my stuff, as the permethrin is some bad stuff when in concentrated form. I also wouldn't recommend spraying the dog either. Get him a collar and buy a small bottle of cedar oil.(should note that some people have allergic reactions to it!) but most "bugs" in general don't like the stuff and will try to stay away from it. Just put a little on a paper towel and run it over the dog. In fact I like the nice aroma it has. Its also usually safe to eat(probably wouldn't taste very good) There are a plethora of different types available.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from redfishunter wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Ticks are horrible this year in the South. A wildlife biologist was explaining to me that it is a result of the mice, which carry more ticks than deer and other wildlife. There was a good acorn crop last year, thus the mice numbers skyrocketed. When the mouse population boomed so did the ticks. Bad acorn crop this year. Less mice. Still have the ticks.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

RSquirrel: I believe the long undies you are referring to are a Rhino suit. I tried one when turkey hunting some years ago at a spot in MO that was the 2nd worst place for ticks I've ever hunted (tx ranch was the worst). Although they felt like compression sox all over my body (how can anyone wear those tight UnderArmor first layers is beyond me), the Rhino seemed to work well until I had to take a midday pit stop and had to drop trow to hit the head. Unknown to me, a hitchhiking blood sucker must have been on my outer clothes and when I did my tick check that night the only one on me was at my waist.

I have used permethrin when turkey hunting in TX but that stuff is poisonous to the touch and stinks as well. If you put it on clothes you intend to use when hunting deer, elk, hog, or other critters with good olfactory senses, it will require numerous washings in non-scent soap to come close to getting rid of the smell. Yeah, I know, "play the wind" but every little bit helps.

A few years ago, I decided my meat-less rear end could not stand anymore sitting on a cushion on the ground and purchased an Everest turkey lounger. it is a little bit of a pain to carry but I can sit for as long as needed now. A wonderful side effect is that I get far fewer ticks sitting a few inches up off the ground. I let my hunting partner sit in a TX mesquite blind the day after I killed a gobbler in the same spot without getting a single tick. He didn't get a turkey but picked up nearly 50 ticks, some of which were still on him as we drove back to the airport in San Antonio the next day (after 2 showers!).

BTW, I live in FLA and we are in a 2-yr drought; not many ticks this year but the fleas are picking up.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

Rocky: Frost hardened ticks, eh? Evolution in action?

Or...on another trip to the same TX ranch, another friend sat down next to another tank. After only a few minutes, he realized he was covered by literally hundreds of tiny ticks. He freaked, as anyone would. I met him back at the truck some time later and saw that he had his shirt off. It's not often you see a 60+year old man with his shirt off in the middle of mesquite and cactus of Hill Country, but it was a really hot day and I assumed that since he was pouring water over himself, he just wanted to cool off. No, he was trying to wash all those ticks off his body. He was really rattled, too, unusual for a guy who had been a chopper pilot in 'Nam and flown large passenger jets for Pan Am and Eastern (back in the day, obviously).

When we got back to camp, the ranch manager told us that entire underground nests of ticks can survive for years without any sustenance, but lay in wait for the next opportunity to feed. Unfortunately for my buddy, he was probably the first meal those nasty buggers had smelled in a long time (even though the ranch has a large working cattle operation, is practically over run with deer, turkey, coyotes, and all kinds of small game). After that, I could not persuade him to go back to that ranch with me. Sadly, it ended up being the last time I hunted with him even though we had hunted MX and Argentina for years before that.

So maybe your first frosts are not severe enough to get to subterranean tick nests. Maybe it takes longer, colder snaps to kill the little vampires when they're underground. Makes sense to me.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I hate ticks, stink bugs and poison ivy. I think the Great Sprit may have been hungover the day he thought them up. Conversely; Snakes? Ok by me.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

i had no idea that moisture had anything to do with the amount of ticks from year to year. i had rocky mountain spotted tick fever when i was a kid and to say it really, really, really sucked is an understatement! protect yourself as much as you do your dog!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Pray- hunt-work wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Here in Maine the ticks were showing themselves by the first week of march. An average year, I start seeing them around the first of may. They are SOLID this year to say the least. I treat the dogs, pet them down every day for their safety and pleasure of course. On the property we burn the fields just around the house which helps alot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Chiggers and ticks going to be bad? ARE BAD! And the poison oak & ivy is everywhere!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I forget to tell you about the poison Ivy, and Oak we have here in Idaho as well. I also forgot tell you an omission I made about our ticks as well...they've morphed! Many are now 9 lbs when fully grown, and 3ft long like those rats in Florida! Not a year to be fishing in the state of Idaho, least not near my river!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from CastMaster25 wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Ticks will be going nuts here in PA! We use heartworm, topical medication, and flea/tick collars. The flea/tick collars aren't used at all times during the hunting season. We usually put them on 3 days before we go out for a hunt or before a club training session.

Since the tick levels will be so high this spring/summer I believe I will have them wear the collars more often. Anything to keep those things from latching on!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Upstate NY--Picking ticks off the cat already. Fleas are out.

GeeWhiz: There are no fleas in Montana.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from muddymudskippa wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

@redfishhunter - Excellent comment but there is a bit of lag time in the population growth of rodents and subsequently the ticks. So, roughly two seasons after a mast year should be bad, in theory. It is in line with what Chad is saying, with all of the rain on the prairie, the plants have higher productivity and thus the rodents have higher reproduction rates becuase of a larger food source and/or are able to better find cover from predators, maybe.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Redford wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

I took my 4yo daughter, wife and dog to catch catfish on southern champlain, near Benson landing, a MONTH ago and my daughter, wife, and dog all got into ticks.

I sent the ones on my wife and kid to the laboratory to get tested. I got the bill a week later and am still waiting on results! They were all deer ticks which are the ones that carry LD.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 1 year 51 weeks ago

Deet does indeed appear to be an energy drink for ticks. I suppose that they are absolutely the worst thing about spring turkey hunting, along with redbugs (AKA: chiggers) and snakes. Makes me wonder why I even bother when it greens up and the weather heats up.
Tell me if I am correct, deer ticks are smaller than dog ticks and can be identified by a telltale white spot on their back. They are the ones humans can contract Lyme Disease from. Once you contract Lyme disease, you have it forever and a second exposure (from a tick bite) exacerbates the symptoms. How much of this is correct?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

RES1956; Yep. Deer ticks are smaller. than dog ticks. Deer ticks carry Lyme. Lyme is treatable until (and I may be wrong about this), it passes the blood/brain barrier and gets inside your head/brain, where no common antibiotic can reach.

There is supposed to be a suit (like long undies) that a tick can't penetrate. Forgot the name. Anyone heard of it or tried it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

Thanks Longbeard. Last rifle deer season, they were all over where I was posted. And that was after a number of frosts. They just don't seem to die after the first killing frost anymore.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RockySquirrel wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

Thanks Longbeard. I hate the damn things. I think I may have freaked also. Maybe I was wrong. I could have sworn the front did them in. In any case, they war active an happy in mid december and there was (some) snow on the ground.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

Wow, Rocky, snow on the ground! that IS surprising! maybe they were wearing UnderArmor base layers.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 1 year 46 weeks ago

I also have seen a rise in tick populations here in NE Ohio. Last years I read an article in medical journal that said a person could repel ticks mosquitoes, chiggers and fleas by using ordinary mouthwash like lysterine. The eucalyptus oil is what protects against these insects. I tried last year and it really seem to work. I saturate my outer clothes with it and let it dry. It will stay on your clothes for about a week And is easy to wash out. I also use on my beagles with no ill affects Also make your clothes smell "Minty Fresh" lol

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from habben97 wrote 1 year 44 weeks ago

one time I found a tick on myself, so i put it in a small container, took out my stoeger 20 gauge and let fly!

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment