Parkland Press

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PRESS PHOTO BY BUD COLE Our dog, Blue, is checked for ticks. PRESS PHOTO BY BUD COLE Our dog, Blue, is checked for ticks.

Don't get ticked off by summer's ticks

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 by BUD COLE Special to The Press in Focus

Summer weather will soon arrive. You might remember an ad, that went something like this: "Just when you think it's safe to go outdoors and enjoy the summer. ... "

This statement is similar to the advertisement for the movie "Jaws."

We do not have to worry about sharks in this area, but many people worry about poison ivy, ticks and biting insects as the air temperatures become warmer.

Although these plants and animals will be out there, it's no reason to stay indoors and vegetate in front of the air conditioner and television. A little background and good common sense allows one to safely enjoy the warmer seasons.

Poison ivy is easily identified by its three waxy leaves. "Leaves of three let it be" is a familiar outdoor expression and a good one to follow.

You find poison ivy growing low to the ground, as an erect shrub and attached to tree trunks and buildings. The larger vines have brown, hairy, root-like projections. The red flaky roots are wild grape.

It is a good idea to learn these two common plants that climb trees. Virginia creeper is another similar plant that has vines that attach to trees. Virginia creeper had five leaves on each stem.

All parts of the poison ivy plant contain "Urushiol," the chemical substance responsible for irritating the skin. The only sure method to prevent poison ivy dermatitis is to avoid direct contact with the plant.

It is a good idea to wear long pants, a lightweight long sleeved shirt and high socks if you are hiking in an area where poison ivy may be growing.

Urushiol can be transferred to shoes and other clothing by accidentally brushing against the plant. Be sure to wash hands and other exposed body areas when you return home. Wash again after removing hiking shoes and clothing. Although you may not have touched the plant with your bare skin, the chemical agent is likely to be present on shoes, socks and other clothing.

The largest mites, the ticks, are external parasites. Ticks need an unsuspecting host to feed on. They drop from vegetation, crawl under clothing and then use their mouthparts to draw blood from the host.

Check for ticks during and immediately after spending time outdoors. It takes several hours for the tick to penetrate the skin. If you find a tick attached to your body be sure to detach all of the mouth parts when removing the tick form the skin.

The deer tick is the one responsible for Lyme disease. This tick is very small and hard to detect. Look for what appear to be pepper specks on the skin. A red area in the shape of a bulls eye often notes reaction to the bite.

Wood ticks are the most common ticks found in this area. They are about 4 millimeters long (0.2 inches) and are easier to find than the deer tick.

It's a good idea to wear long pants with the cuffs tucked into your socks when traveling in high grass and wooded areas. Always wear a hat, baseball cap or other similar head covering and remember to check for ticks when you and your family return home.

Be sure to check your pets that play outdoors for ticks. We have difficulty finding ticks on our black and white English springer spaniel, Blue, since the majority of his fur is black. My wife Bev and I regularly check him for ticks.

Blue had to go to the animal hospital early on Christmas Eve morning, 2009. Blood tests revealed that he had Ehrlichia, a disease caused by the brown dog tick. We had to give him antibiotics for a few weeks. Thankfully, the problem was found in time and he recovered.

Biting insects, a misnomer (in most cases the insects are using needle-like extensions to do their dirty work) are found throughout the Lehigh Valley. The best protection is to use a repellant. Do not swat at bees, wasps and hornets. These actions will excite or anger the stinging insects and cause them to sting. Stinging is their only defense. Remain still and slowly move away.

Mosquitoes are probably the major insect problem. Only the female dines on the blood of mammals including humans. The male mosquito feeds on plants. What is often thought to be a large mosquito, because of its similar shape, is actually the harmless adult crane fly.

To help cut back on mosquitoes in your immediate area try to eliminate all standing water. The female lays rafts of several hundred eggs in still water. If there is no water available the female will move to another location to deposit her eggs.

A few preventative measures and some good common sense will allow you to enjoy the summer. Be careful out there.

That's the way I see it!

To schedule programs, hikes and birthday parties: 610-767-4043; comments: bbbcole@enter.net

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© 2013 Bud Cole