(initiate Aussie outback accent)…..I’m pretty sure Gregor is out of tick country now mate but in the off chance mate that he encounters any more of these “little blighters” mate as the sorely missed Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin would say, I thought I’d write a piece on them. I wouldn’t normally ever speak “ill” of any arthropod, however, on this occasion I think it’s probably a good idea so as to alert Gregor the Trekker of the ill effects of a neglected tick bite. As Gregor alluded to previously, tick-borne meningo-encephalitis is the worry and is found east of the Harz mountains. He has however had his vaccination against this nasty viral infection, which is great news. Unlike meningo-encephalitis, there is no prophylaxis against Lyme disease. This can be cured with antibiotics like amoxicillin but Gregor still needs to be wary.
What are ticks? Ticks are: cool, aesthetically awesome, alien-like face huggers that inspire sci-fi movies while like all parasites are crucial components in our surrounding ecosystems. Sorry, I got
carried away. Ticks are eight legged, ectoparasitic (i.e. feed externally out of necessity on other organisms) arachnids that are widely distributed around the globe. Together with mites, they form the subclass Acari. There are three families: The Nuttalliellidae – consisting of the sole species, Nuttalliella namaqua. Then, there are the so-called soft ticks (Argasidae) and the hard ticks (Ixodidae). In the early stages, nymphal or juvenile ticks will feed on amphibians, reptiles and birds. Following continual moults and as they metamorphose, leading to more developed mouth parts in the process, the adults will actively seek out larger mammals such as deer, livestock and (oh dear) humans. The word “Tick” is derived from the Middle English “Ticia” and can be traced back even further in time. Would you believe that the fossilized remains of these little critters have been found in substrates dating back to the Cretaceous period and before? Could you imagine a dinosaur tick?!!
WHERE THE TICKS ARE A HANGIN’
Ticks tend to adhere to the underside of the leaves on low-lying shrubs and more generally to the tips of grass blades particularly on the edges of forests and along trails frequently utilized by large mammals. I have noticed grass that is between knee and hip height is an ideal “questing” site
for them too. When I say “questing”, what I am referring to is the typical “pincer like” behavior that a tick exhibits upon reaching its optimal position in which to pounce onto a passing victim. It will clasp its rear two pairs of legs to the blade of grass that it resides on (if a thin blade) whilst splaying widely it's other two pairs of legs. It does this so as to 1) expose the front two legs which on the first tarsi (segment) of each have sensory pits known as Haller's organs. They can use these organs to detect changing environmental conditions resulting from the approaching organism: humidity, Co2 and temperature levels for example. 2) It is now poised to quickly grasp and clamber up the potential host. The reason they move quickly is to seek areas of the victim’s body where there is thin membranous tissue in which to tap into the bloodstream. Ohhh, I like writing gruesomely, Mwa ha ha!!! So yeah....cute little critters....
I’ll speak directly to Gregor….
1) Always wear trekking pants not shorts and tuck them into your socks. After doing this I
usually spray 100% deet (or as near to this as you have) around the tops of your socks so the ticks are deterred from scaling your legs.... Apply deet to the rest of your body too,
particularly at potential tick entry points.
2) Make damn sure you do a tick check of your body EVERY day after the trek through tick infested areas. As long as you get them off within 24-48hrs you're good. Many ticks can feed for ten days
or more before they drop off. The castor bean tick (Ixodes ricinus) will probably be
the most prevalent in Germany.When removing them, use a fine tweezers and clamp as close to the skin and the ticks feeding hypostome as possible. Do not twist them off. This is a misconception spread by people who think ticks have a thread on their mouthparts like a screw....utter rubbish. While they do have barbs in which to stay lodged in the host, twisting achieves nothing but residual mouthparts in your skin more often than not. Do not under any circumstances pull them off by
applying pressure to their abdomen. All you are doing here is forcing the innards of the critter into your bloodstream and you don't want that, particularly if it is an infected individual.
3) Ticks will usually hang on knee height grass that flank regularly used deer trails.....Avoid if possible but don't worry also. As long as you remove them within the required time you are good.
slán a chara!
Nice chatting to ye guys ;)
(I´ve heard people advise to tuck your pants into your socks AND your shirt into your pants. You won´t win a fashion prize but at least you´re safe.)