I have never spent much time thinking about snakes and bugs, since I was a kid. My grandma had garter snakes at her house growing up and she never seemed much phased by them, though as small child I was not so sure. My husband is allergic to spider bites and we had a dog who got a necrotic wound from a spider bite, so even though they do have a purpose we don’t tolerate them in the house or in the major people places in our yard. Bottom line is we are adults don’t encounter many creepy crawly things and don’t spend much time thinking about them. Last week with my new job I had lots of encounters and I learned something about myself and how I feel about things that are creepy crawly.
I spent the week out in the field working with biocontrol agents. In layman’s terms this means I collected “good” bugs that would eat non-native invasive plants and moved them from an area with an over abundant population of bugs to an area that did not have enough bugs to work on the “bad” plant. Non-native invasive plants left unchecked would overrun a native/normal ecosystem such that it could no longer be used for its intended purposes. The intended purpose could be to support wildlife that has existed there for years, agriculture or recreation. Not all non-native plants become invasive nor will they upset the ecosystems, but some like spotted knapweed have the ability to overrun an ecosystem so completely that the elk can no longer find sufficient food and this can mess up everything from breeding, weight, herd size and other things. Biocontrol is not a magic bullet but is one of an arsenal of tools for attempting to manage invasive plants.
First we inventoried places so we knew where the bugs were and what level they were at. This involved timed counts and using a GPS. This data was given to the professionals who evaluated levels and then gave us assignments on where to collect and where to redistribute what we had collected. For the plant and bug we were dealing with this week I walked through acres of weeds and grasses. To collect the bioagents you knocked bugs off the “bad” plants into trays. This is where the worst of the creepy crawly things comes into play. When you knock bugs off the plant you not only get what you want, but lots of other bugs. Bugs that have wings and fly. Grasshoppers. Spiders of all sizes and colors. Lastly ticks.
I have decided that of all the things that I ran into this week collecting and redistributing bugs, that I hate ticks most. I ran across snakes as well this week and decided that quite frankly they don’t want to encounter me and if I slow down they will move on and out of the way. On the other hand ticks are always looking for there next meal. Things that can hop or fly are like snakes they will move out of the my collection tray if they are given enough time. Spiders well they are a little gross, but most of the I can flick them out of my tray without much effort, but ticks……well they are just plain nasty vectors of disease. I would prefer to never have to deal with them, but shaking the bugs off of plant, it just invites the tick to move, and you are looking pretty good at that moment. So you become a tick magnet, no matter your precaution.
I did all the right precautionary stuff. Co-workers picked ticks off of clothing for one another. When I got back to my hotel that night I did a tick check and did not find anything. After showering I was checking my hair for what I thought was the billionth time and found two ticks on the nape of my neck. Oh gross. I was there alone in my hotel room with ticks on me. No one to call for help. I pulled up my big girl panties and took them off and flushed them down the toilet. They had not attached at that point. Lucky me. If they been attached the rules would have been different. It was the icing on the cake of affirming that yes ticks are the worst of the creepy crawly things in the world for this woman.
If you find a tick crawling on you pick it off and throw it down the toilet. If it becomes attached, when you remove it, save it in a plastic bag in the freezer in case you become ill. Having that tick will be really helpful if that does happen. Also make sure you know the right way to get a tick out of you if it becomes attached. If you are unsure don’t be afraid to ask for help.