An update on interesting facts on some miserable pests
June 12, 2002
There are millions of tiny monsters lurking out there, just waiting to attack you, when you dare to venture into the Great Outdoors.
They will attack, viciously, and those tiny monsters have names.
They are quite commonly known as mosquitoes and ticks.
So for those of you who may not know or who did not read that previous column, here are some interesting facts on those obnoxious, miserable pests.
First of all, mosquitoes don’t bite you. It’s true, they don’t bite.
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They just drill a hole in your skin.
A mosquito actually penetrates your skin with a hollow, flexible snout composed of six parts.
Four of those parts are designed to cut into your skin and the remaining two parts allow the mosquito to gorge “herself” on your blood.
And, if you’re a careful reader, you noticed the word “herself.”
For you see, only the female mosquito attacks you for your blood.
The male is a strict vegetarian and he feeds only on the nectar of flowers.
So, in the insect world, there is at least one example of where the male is the good guy!
Female mosquitoes will also attack birds and animals for their blood.
They will attack a victim about four times during their life span.
She has to spend about a minute and a half on your skin to complete her meal of your blood. That’s assuming that you’re dumb enough to tolerate her for that long!
Once, she’s fed on your blood, she can lay anywhere from 100 to 300 eggs. Now, you know why there are so darn many mosquitoes each summer.
The itch of the mosquito bite is caused by the saliva that the tiny pest injects into the wound to thin out the blood to make it easier to draw out of your system.
Here’s some additional facts on those obnoxious pests:
They have been around for more than 200 million years.
During that time, they have been responsible for more deaths than all of the wars combined in the entire history of mankind.
Mosquitoes can survive temperatures all the way from below freezing to well over 100 degrees.
They are found virtually everywhere in our part of the world, from the far northern reaches of Alaska to the very southern tip of Argentina.
When flying, mosquitoes beat their tiny wings about 1,000 times per second, which creates their familiar noise.
They can reach speeds of about eight miles per hour.
And, finally, they love dark clothing. So, one way to minimize being pestered by those little critters would be to wear light-colored clothing.
Hmmm, as a personal thought, I wonder if it would help if you didn’t wear any clothes at all? Probably not, and what the heck, the neighbors next door would probably complain about your personal mosquito abatement program.
In olden days, people would even wear garlands of garlic around their necks to repel mosquitoes. Geez, I don’t know about the mosquitoes but if you were to wear garlic around your neck, I sure as heck would be repelled. Big time!
Do you know that the tick’s primary role in the ecological balance of Mother Nature is to serve as a food source for birds?
It’s true, but unfortunately to serve in that role, they grow to adult size by feeding on the blood of warm-blooded animals and human beings such as you and I.
There are more than 800 types of ticks found throughout the world, but humans need to be concerned with only two types:
1. Ixodes (Western Black-Legged or Black-Legged Ticks), called deer or bear ticks, which can transmit Lyme disease.
2. Lone Star (Rocky Mountain Wood or American Dog Ticks), which can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
If you are infected with either Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, symptoms may appear as soon as 2-3 days or as long as one month after the tick has attached to your skin. Symptoms include headaches, achy muscles, a red rash and/or a high temperature.
Here are five important tips on protecting yourself from ticks and diseases they may carry:
1. Avoid “ticky” areas during the tick season. Stay on paths or roads where feasible. Ticks do not drop from trees. They most often get on you from vegetation that is at or below waist level. They wait for a warm blooded creature (such as you and I) to brush again the vegetation and then transfer to the creature.
2. Wear light-colored, long-sleeve shirts and pants, so the ticks can be more easily seen. Tuck the shirt into the pants and the pants into your socks to prevent access to your skin.
3. Carefully apply repellents containing 30-50 percent of the active ingredient DEET on exposed skin and clothing. Treat exterior clothing with products containing Permethrin and follow the instructions, precisely.
DEET repels ticks, while Permethrin kills them.
4. Do frequent checks of your body.
Use the “buddy system” to check each other’s body areas that you can not see. Ticks prefer warm, moist locations, such as the armpit, crotch, sweaty folds in the skin or the inside of the ear.
5. If you discover ticks attached to your body, remove them immediately.
Carefully grasp the head as closely as possible to the skin with tweezers, forceps, pliers or your thumb and forefinger. Pull up slowly with a steady and even pressure.
Most importantly, pull with a slow counter-clockwise turn. They bore into your skin in a clockwise manner.
Keep the tick alive by placing it in a small bottle /vial, together with a small piece of moistened paper to keep it from drying out and dying.
Knowing which tick bit you may be very useful in making a doctor’s diagnosis if disease symptoms should develop at a later date.
Carefully clean the affected area with soap and water.
Then, apply povidone-iodine or a rubbing-alcohol antiseptic pad to reduce the chance of local infection.
If you inadvertently, pull off the tick’s body and leave the head embedded in your skin, go to a doctor as soon as possible for the proper medical treatment to remove that head.
— There you have it: All you need to know about those tiny monsters that are lurking out there.
They’re waiting on you — are you ready for them?
— Bet Your Favorite Pigeon
Bet your favorite pigeon that he can’t name one of the worst mosquito areas and one of the worst tick areas in this part of the country.
If he answers, “The Emigrant Basin Wilderness Area in Calif. for mosquitoes and the Secret Lake area (just off the Sonora Pass Highway) for ticks,” he is an experienced backpacker who has probably encountered those miserable, little pests at those locations.
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