A couple of Sundays ago, Eric Stewart, my insurance agent, and I were talking in the hall at church about hiking. He is a reader of this blog and was telling me about a great trail across the road from West Haven subdivision in Franklin Tennessee that my Honey and I should try. I love this kind of conversation and will go try that trail. He told me of his experience there and warned me about the ticks. He wanted to know if ticks die off each year, hibernate or what. We talked about how they get on you and when they are most active. I told him what I knew—which wasn’t much—and since I realized that I didn’t know enough, I did some reading. I was going to share what I found in the summer until I learned that ticks are still out there in the winter on a warm day too! But don’t worry, read on and see how low the risk really is…My Honey hates ticks but we have figured out how to stay tick free almost all of the time.
Do ticks die off each year? No. A tick lives often through several years over-wintering in forrest debris until spring.
Do they hibernate? No, not a true hibernation. They don’t go into a deep sleep to save energy with slowed breathing and heart rate like some fish and bears do, for example. They simply hide under something trying to stay warm.
How do they get on you? They climb short grass and saplings. They hold out their front legs and wait for a rodent or other small animal, bird or human to walk by and brush up against them.
When are they most active? They are most active during spring-like temperatures through mid-summer. Basically when birds, rodents and other small animals are most active.
Are they more active in cedar groves? This was my question because I thought it was true. I seem to get more ticks when I’m in a cedar grove. But…I was wrong…they are not more active in cedar groves and do not climb up in adult trees and fall on you when you walk by. I guessed that they were in the trees and fell on me when I passed by. But what was really happening was that when I was under a cedar grove it was usually plowing through to a pretty spot. I would crouch down and brush up against more grass and saplings with a larger percentage of my clothes. This increased the opportunity to make tick contact.
Do they sense carbon dioxide that we exhale? Yes. They can also sense temperature and other chemical clues that help them be ready with their front legs extended in hopes that an animal will brush up against them.
Coming soon—more thoughts from my reading and experience about:
Know your enemy—the life cycle of a tick.
How to prepare against ticks.
What insect repellent works well and how to make herbal repellent.
You can handle the truth about the low risk of disease from ticks.
Pondering Your Path—After hiking, you get to check your Honey for ticks…TMI?