Questions and answers sent via e-mail – Updated June 23, 2004

Disclaimer: Please make note that I am not a medical professional. I am an amateur naturalist with over twenty years of field work. My answers are either based on passages from books, other websites, publications, letters sent to me, or my own personal experiences. Although I will answer any question to the best of my knowledge or experiences, I always recommend that you seek vital medical answers from an experienced professional. There is no such thing as a stupid question. I always find being a little paranoid, cautious, whatever, better that being sick. Be safe and always see a doctor whenever you get sick for no seemingly logical reason. I do. Remember this; Diseases CAN and DO kill, including those from ticks.

Also, I you ever have anything to add, dispute, refute, etc., please write insect@ptd.net and I will pass on the information. Like I said earlier, information I have is either for other sources or my own experiences.

Question:

I have a question about ticks. Is there a natural predator for the American Dog Tick? We are so infested that it is impossible to go outside with out getting 1-2 on you. Our dogs are keeping us very busy. Our little dog got loose and was gone for 3 days. When he came home, I picked 47 ticks off of him. A stray Great Dane pup ended up on our porch Saturday. Before taking her home, I picked 62 ticks out of her ears alone. I dip the dogs, keep the brush cut back, grass mowed, but they are everywhere. If there was a natural predator, maybe it could be introduced in this area, and in the long run, get the population of ticks down.

Answer:

Unfortunately, ticks rate as a parasite on the top of the food chain. They suck blood off of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Basically, all vertebrates are vulnerable. They are also at times, species specific, i.e., dog tick, deer tick, etc.

I am honestly not aware of anything that eats ticks in the numbers that would keep their populations in balance, or else they would be using them now. An option, you might consider for a first try, an agricultural pesticide that will kill ticks. They don't migrate far. Some ticks will spend years in a very, very small location. I understand that mint is one plant that ticks don't like. Another one is the citronella plant. These are the kinds of things I would use to keep them out of a perimeter. There are probable other plants that will help too. If it is an option, getting rid of their habitat, and planting something other than what they like might help too, such as instead of fields of grass, maybe a field of English Ivy for a ground covering.

My one text recommends the industrial spraying, it will help for one season, but chemicals always have risks of allergenic reactions to killing off good insects. I believe in using natural plants. There is something out there that will drive any pest away from an area.

*NOTE*

This is a post-response entry. I have also recently learned that placing garlic cloves in and around the sleeping/play areas of your pets will drive away ticks (and fleas) Possibly all your friends too, but that is an option you have to weigh personally. Also, place about 4-5 drops of fresh squeezed garlic juice (from the cloves) into your pet’s drinking water. I understand that this will prevent your pet from getting ticks (and fleas). I have not tried this myself yet, so I'm not sure of the results personally.

Please not also that I have received letters from others pet owners who have cats that citronella may cause problems with felines.  I am also told that garlic is poisonous to cats so please consult your veterinarian before you do conduct any homeopathic form of treatments.

 

Question:

Subject: Tick Bite Sensitivity

Due to my line of work (livestock farming) plus love of the outdoors, I seem to be a primary target for ticks and this current year seems to promise a record exposure to same. As such, I've read many articles regarding ticks, but while all warn of tick dangers and how to remove or avoid them.... not one single article I've ever read or physician I've ever spoken with seems to have an answer to my main query.

I practice every method I know to avoid ticks or discourage them from being able to bite into me.... I even wear panty-hose (I'm a man) and while that helps considerably, they still manage to get into my flesh. I'd estimate I've experienced some 50 tick bites in just the past two weeks (mostly from 'seed' ticks) but 'seed' or adult, I always experience the same reaction.....and that is what I would consider a very high 'sensitivity' to whatever sort of antigen they seem to impart with their bite. To get to the point of the matter, whenever I am bitten....and regardless of the size of the tick or the shortness of the duration of the bite, within hours I develop a hard welt at the bite site that itches intensely and normally that itching/welt will continue to plague me for at least six to eight weeks per each bite before disappearing. Add to that....many bites per season and I am itching like crazy for 99% of the warm weather months of the year. I am assuming I am highly sensitive due to the fact I've seen others remove attached ticks and never develop welts or complain of any real distress from same. When asked of same, such people tell me they just don't experience any significant after effect from the bites.

My question? Are you aware of any type of medication or treatment to relieve the long term welts and itching. If the season continues as it has this year, I am sure I can expect several hundred bites before cold weather arrive (end of tick season) and while I can tolerate the bites....I dread the after-effects of the itching.

I would sincerely appreciate any help you might render regarding this query. I've been to doctors, dermatologists, and others and most of them consider my problem to be a non- issue....or merely say I should stay away from ticks....but for me....that is not a viable answer. Surely....something must be available that can reverse or minimize the long term effect of the bites.

Answer:

I too get plagued by the bites of ticks. The problem with ticks, and fleas, mosquitoes and other blood sucking pests is that they inject an anti-coagulant in the bite to prevent clotting while they feed. Some people swell, others don't, some people itch, some don't, but the enzyme they inject causes this reaction. When bit by ticks, I use something called "green soap" to clean the wounds. I honestly don't know what other name it goes by, but it is a widely used disinfectant in institutions and can be purchased from a drug store. Then I use a first aid spray/antiseptic/anesthetic to relieve the swelling and itching. I use a generic brand in a pressurized spray can from Rite Aid. It contains benzocaine, pyrilamine maleate, benzakonium chloride, and 67% isopropyl alcohol. It takes a few applications to relieve the itching, but it is great stuff.

To keep the ticks off, try extra strength DEET, or something along those group of insect repellents. You might even try planting mint, garlic or other potent and pungent herbs in the bad areas.

*Note - Post-Response Reply*

Appreciate the info you sent me regarding relief for tick bites. Will try the 'green soap' and spray systems. I believe when I wrote of the problem I had some 50 tick bites (most from what we call 'seed' ticks') ....and about a weeks later, I count over 100 bites of same nature. Have started taking over-counter Benadryl types anti-histamines and they give me periodic relief from the itching but only for say a couple of hours or so.

I've tried the 'deet' products heavily and have lost faith in them. Maybe they help...and I know they help repel a lot of nuisance insects such as sweat bees, etc....but I really question if they really repel ticks. I think I really summed up my doubts when I (on more than one occasion) took a freshly caught tick and placed it on a clean table surface...I then a sprayed a concentrate of 'deet' into a spoon and the proceeded to spread the liquid 'deet' into the form of a quarter-size circle around the tick. In each and every instance, the tick quickly crawled right through and across the 'deet' path and seemed to show no hesitation in doing same. Perhaps I'm not thinking logically, but it would seem to me if 'deet' really deterred ticks, a tick would hesitate or refuse to put itself into that dilemma. Thought I just pass that on to you for thought. You might want to do the same test and see if you get same results.

As to spraying the ground area, I've found about the only effective spray that has any real lasting results (a few days) is something we're not supposed to use....a termite killer that is generally no longer available to the public and possibly no longer available to the professional as well. I believe you'll know without me spelling it out the name of that chemical pesticide.

Also, the area I'm bitten in most of the time is our 30 acre farm in southern Virginia and this year looks like it is going to be a record year for tick prevalence.

I do believe the theory that ticks cannot survive long freezing spells...something we have very seldom in this area. I say that in the fact that I grew up the first half of my life in northern Ohio where the winters were much more severe than here in southern Virginia and likewise in growing up, ticks on dogs and such never seemed to be near the problem up there as they are down here in the south-east. Of course, I could move North but that is not really a viable answer ;family wise. Thanks for your advice and input.

Question:

Could you recommend any sites that show various types of ticks for comparison. We've had some larger ticks recently, and would like to know what kind these are, and what potential problems they may cause.

Answer:

I'm not quite sure what area your located in, but the one link to Iowa State U. Entomology site has size comparisons on the deer tick, and this website to the University of Rhode Island has comparisons on three major ticks in the NE US region. I'll see what else I can find and let you know.

Question:

My (deleted) has been told that he has lymes disease. He is very ill. He does not remember being bitten by a tick. He has migraines and joint pain right now. Around Christmas he had fevers, chills and flu like symptoms that he had for two months at least. The doctors have tried antibiotics and he was getting better, but now the headaches are back and he has severe joint pain. We are all worried and the doctors just say they have been as aggressive as they know how in treating the disease. This is at an infectious disease center. Is there a doctor or hospital that you know of that may know more on how to treat this disease. There must be some studies going on somewhere. Thank you for you time.

Answer:

There is a tremendous amount of research going on now to study the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. It is a very mysterious bacteria that is hard to treat once a person has been infected for a lengthy amount of time. Have you contacted anyone at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? I feel they would be the best people to contact.

Contact me at insect@ptd.net if you have questions and I will try to answer them personally or in this forum.  Thanks!!