Itchy & Scratchy Summer
[Music playing, owl hooting.]
>> Hey there and welcome back to NatureBoost. I'm Jill Pritchard with the Missouri Department of Conservation. It's May, which means summer is almost here! One of the most common deterrents of people enjoying a nature boost in the summer are those itchy plants and insects. I'm talking about poison ivy, mosquitoes, and ticks. I wanted to shed a light on these bloodsuckers not only to learn how to steer clear of them, but also to spread awareness of their ecological benefits, because they do have them.
>> So this is the real thing.
>> That's poison ivy right there?
>> This is poison ivy, and I can talk about the characteristics of it. This is one of its lookalikes. People often think this is poison ivy, but this is fragrant sumac.
>> Oh, okay.
>> Isn't that nice?
>> Oh it does smell nice. I like that!
I met up with Runge Nature Center Manager Kevin Lohraff earlier this month to take a dive into these pesky parts of nature.
>> The old expression is leaves of three leave them be. You see the three leaves. But the difference is this middle stem is a little bit longer than the others. It is reaching out to get you. That is how you remember this is poison ivy. This middle stem really isn't that much longer.
>> The sumac.
>> Yeah, this is the sumac. This helps you distinguish between the two.
>> Then another thing over here is that it's a kind of neat plant. Poison ivy can be a plant, it can be a bush like 6 ft tall and 6 ft wide, it can also be a vine. Here we see the young vines right here. As they get older, they start to get hairy and when they get real old, they get real thick and hairy like that. They can go 60 ft up a tree. So a plant, a bush, a vine, poison ivy can really grow in a lot of different places in a lot of different ways. But you still see the same characteristics. Leaves of three, and that middle stem reaching out to get ya.
>> What is it about poison ivy that is poisonous? Does it secrete an oil?
>> Yeah, the scientific name is toxicodendron which means literally poison tree. It is not actually a tree, it is a plant, bush or vine. But the poison part is from an oil. It is in all parts of the plant - the roots, the stems, the leaves. It's called urushiol. And it is a very potent, kind of a toxin. It can live like five years even in dead poison ivy plants. It can be active on two years on clothing you haven't washed yet. It can come in on dogs. You can get it infected from that. The infection really causes a rash, a burning feeling, and then really lots of itching. It can eventually go to blisters and eventually can lead to infections. It can get dangerous if you get a really bad case of it.
>> I didn't know it could be active on clothing that long.
>> Yeah, regular laundry soap will take care of it. But if you don't. If you just walk through the woods and walk through poison ivy and leave it sitting around it can actually infect people for up to years before you wash it.
>> Well and something else I think there is a misconception that you can only find poison ivy in your woods. But I have it in my backyard. It was just growing up a tree.
>> Yeah, poison ivy is found in every county in Missouri. It is also found in the east coast, to the west coast, southern Canada, all the way to Mexico. It is found in almost every one of the habitats we have in Missouri. Not only in the deep woods forest, but its preferred habitat is the edges of forests and old fields. You will also see it right along the trails like we have here. You'll see it in backyards. It thrives in disturbed places, which is actually one of its benefits.
It is considered a pioneer species in that it can be the first to grow in a really disturbed area. In a way, that is one of its benefits. It helps hold down erosion in the soil of newly disturbed areas. But yeah, it's everywhere. Any habitat from glades to prairies, to forests, to fields, to suburbs, to parks, to neighborhoods. It's everywhere. It's really useful to identify it.
>> Absolutely. We are in early May right now and as you've been showing me we are here at Runge Nature Center in Jefferson City and it is already starting to pop up. Talk to me about the berries of it, though. It produces some berries.
>> It does produce berries. It produces waxy berries. That is actually one of the benefits of the plant itself. We actually recommend leaving the plant if it is not causing a problem with your kids, pets, or you don't have to go through that area. We recommend leaving it because it is actually a beneficial plant to wildlife and to habitats. 75 species of song birds eat the berries and plus turkeys, and quail. The leaves are eaten by deer, and bears, and other animals as forage. It is a useful plant. It can also be a cover plant for some wildlife. So, the berries of poison ivy are small round and waxy like a waxy white. They are not on yet. But that's one of the distinguishing characteristics of the plant that it has white waxy berries.
>> Do they get that as the summer goes on?
>> Yeah, they will, that's right. We just have leaves emerging right now but as the summer goes on, you will get small little tiny flowers you can barely recognize and then the food will come after that.
>> Even now as it is just starting to pop up it is still poisonous now as it will be. What about in the wintertime?
>> Yes! As a matter of fact, that's another one of the characteristics of the oil, the urishiol I was telling you about. Not only is it active when the plant is green and growing leaves, but it is in all parts of the plant all year long. You can get infected from that plant in the dead of winter just by brushing against the old stems. Remember that oil can stay even in a dead plant for years.
>> Oh my gosh.
>> Here's another thing. That oil is so persistent that if you burn it on campfire wood or say you have some of that vine on your campfire wood and didn't know it and you burn that, or a brush pile with that poison ivy on there. That oil can get into the smoke and you can breathe it in and it can cause you respiratory problems.
>> Oh my gosh.
>> It is a very potent and persistent oil.
>> A recipe for disaster it sounds like. I wouldn't want that burning on my campfire, that's for sure. So if it is in your backyard and you want to get rid of it, tell us again what the best way to do that is.
>> Yeah, the best way to do it is to spray it with a spray that way you don't have to touch it. It will kill the roots. Most commonly available spray, herbicide that will kill it is glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in a lot of brand name herbicides like RoundUp is probably the most common one, and some other brand name ones. That will kill it and kill the roots. You just have to keep after it though because remember it is a persistent plant and you know, it can live underground. Those roots can be underground for quite a while. If it is an area you really want to eradicate, you will have to spray it and keep visiting that area over the years.
>> Good to know to be persistent with it. For anybody who is going to be out backpacking or hiking or anything, do you have any suggestions or tips for them as far as to avoid poison ivy? I think identification is probably the best.
>> Yeah, education is the best. Just knowing how to identify it. Know that it is common along trails, and probably the best defense you have against it is being able to recognize it and then wear long pants if you are going to be going along trails where it might be encroaching, things like that. There are also some products you can put on ahead of time if you know you are going to be in it.
There's a couple brands that have a product you can put on your skin and that will help keep the urishiol from getting on your skin and being absorbed by your skin. There are also products that help you remove it. If you got into it accidentally and didn't know it, you can buy products Tecnu is one of the brands but there are others. That will help you. It is a cleanser that will help remove that oil. One of the tips we have is to get that oil off your skin as soon as possible. It doesn't really cause problems until it gets absorbed into the skin and starts competing with the proteins in your skin. The best thing to do if you know you have been in contact with your sakuni is to wash with soap and water. We recommend cold water, because hot water can open the pores and let some of the oil in.
>> Oh yeah.
>> So cold water keeps those pores closed and get that oil washed off as soon as possible. Any kind of normal soap will work. You don't want an overly oily soap or something with oils in it. Most normal soaps will wash that off as soon as possible.
>> A few years ago like I was telling you earlier, I had poison ivy. I have this huge oak tree in my backyard, and it had all these vines overgrowing so I was trying to get the vines off the trunk of the tree. And there was poison ivy all over it. Even my neighbor was outside and he was like, "Jill, you be careful! I'm pretty sure there is poison ivy all over that!" and I'm just like, "Yeah, yeah, whatever." Sure enough. Oh, I had it bad on my legs, on my arms, and it is miserable once you get it.
>> Yeah it is. If you have vines going up a tree like that we recommend cutting the vine near the base of the tree and putting on an herbicide. That herbicide will go in and kill the roots. It's really not a good idea to start pulling it down from the tree because you can get parts of that vine down onto your body and even into your eyes and on your face. Some of the oil can come out and get in your skin. You don't want to do that.
It's actually not a problem for native trees. It will go up trees but it doesn't really strangle or hurt them too much. You can snip that vine and then treat with herbicide.
>> You wouldn't call poison ivy an invasive plant by any means?
>> Uh, it kind of is in the way it can come in early before other plants. But it's not like an exotic invasive plant and that it will take over. It is a native plant to Missouri, so it evolved here in providing many benefits to wildlife. It seems people are really the only creatures that have problems with it.
>> That's good to know, though! As much as we think of these things as kind of outdoor pests in the summer time, it is important to know that hey, really it is only hurting us but it is good for wildlife.
>> That's right. So many wildlife species benefit from it in so many different ways. So leave it if you can
>> Good to know, Kevin. Let's move on to some other little pests of summer. Let's talk about mosquitoes.
>> Many people don't like mosquitoes. I actually read, have you ever heard they have called them the most dangerous insect in the world?
>> I can believe that because globally they do cause so many diseases and are vectors for many diseases that are really hard on human kind in many parts of the world. Things like dengue fever, malaria, zika virus, West Nile Virus. It is a vector for the bacterium that causes elephantiasis. So a lot of different worldwide problems are spread by this one insect.
Here in Missouri, we have 50 species of mosquitoes. I didn't realize until recently.
Interestingly, some of them just specialize on certain animals. For example, there are some that only bite frogs. There are some that only bite birds. Some bite anything they find. Some actually prefer humans. So, it is good to know what they look like and good to know a little bit about their life history so you can take some precautions against them.
>> Tell us about. That's interesting that there is a few that are specializing in the type of blood they like to drink. Is it true that only females are the ones that are bloodsuckers?
>> Yeah, that's true. Only the females suck blood. The males usually drink plant juices. They both have the same mouth part which is a proboscis for piercing and sucking it is just kind of like a straw with a pointed end. That is true. Only the females will suck blood. The reason for that is because they need that protein to develop their eggs. So, that is part of their life cycle. It is that they will take a blood meal and that will help them develop their eggs. They will lay their eggs on water. Interestingly, mosquitoes need water as part of their life cycle. The eggs hatch in the water. The little larvae are called wigglers. You may have seen them in standing water or bird baths or something. They are really jerky and really tiny. They are like a quarter of an inch. They are really jerky if you bother them. They will develop into a larger larvae stage called . . . what are they called.
>> Are they pupae?
>> They are pupae, but they have another name for it. Anyway, they are a little bit bigger.
They stay in the water, and then they hatch out and when they hatch out they immediately - the females will immediately try to go find a blood meal. Normally it takes 2-3 weeks, but if conditions are right it can happen in as little as ten days.
>> For them to hatch?
>> Yes, for them to hatch, find a meal, mate, and lay eggs and start the whole thing all over again. It is good to know. You know that a part of their life cycle depends on water. Some things you can do around the house to prevent mosquitoes from breeding around your house is to make sure your gutters are working right. If you have a lot of standing water with clogged up gutters, you are probably breeding a lot of mosquitoes up there. Also things like old tires around in your yard or behind the barn, those tires, and junk like that will hold water in crevices. We only need ten days so if you have water in some stuff around your house you are going to be breeding mosquitoes.
>> I had to remember that because I had a little kiddie pool for my dog. So I always remember, I'm like, "Don't let that because I don't want to breed mosquitoes."
>> Right. Ten days. They are a fly in the order of diptera and other flies. You might know that flies are notorious for being able to breed and reproduce quickly.
>> I did not know that. That's interesting.
So what is the best preventive measures?
>> Okay, so mosquitoes are pretty much everywhere. They are in almost every habitat all over Missouri. Some of them prefer more woodland habitats. Some of them prefer more open habitats. They are found almost everywhere. Some of the things you can do is to wear long pants and long clothing. If you are going to be in an area where you know there will be a lot of them, you can wear a head net, and they make actually insect suits which are kind of netting which protect you. A physical barrier against them. Probably one of the best ones though is to have an insect repellent that has DEET as the active ingredient. The amount of DEET can range anywhere from 15-100%. For little kids we recommend the lower percentages of DEET, but if you are in an area with a lot of mosquitoes you may need to go up to 100% which I have before. It does help a lot.
>> Can that be harmful to you, though?
>> Well, DEET is okay for skin. Especially in the lower percentages. The DEET is okay for skin, there is another insecticide or insect repellent that has permethrin as the active ingredient and permethrin is for clothing only. You don't want to put it on your skin because it can hurt you. It is a protective barrier against ticks and chiggers and to mosquitoes to a degree. Mostly it is for things that will crawl on you like ticks and chiggers. Whereas, the DEET is really good for flying insects.
Think of the DEET as for things like flying insects like mosquitoes, horse flies, deer flies and things like that. DEET products are a lot better for flying insects, and permethrin are better for things like the crawling things. They are not actually insects but the things that can crawl on you and hurt you.
>> I hadn't heart about that. It's permethrin?
>> Yeah, permethrin. It is p-e-r-m-e-t-h-r-i-n.
>> Okay, that's good to know. Now let me ask you this. If it is really hot, or if you are sweating, or if you are wearing a certain color, can that attract them more?
>> Yeah I think lighter colors. We recommend against lighter colors. It might be easier for them to see. Mosquitoes can also detect carbon dioxide. It is just kind of a matter of . . .
>> Like you are just breathing.
>> Yeah, they can sense that. They are not strong flyers, though. If you are able to get into a windy or breezy spot, you are going to be bothered less by mosquitoes because they can't really fly very well.
>> I actually read this. Maybe you read this or know about this, too on our website. I thought it was some interesting history that back in the day they associated like low lying swamp areas where there was still water you know with spreading disease because of the insects. Then that is why wealthier people would build their homes on hills. Do you know what I am talking about?
>> Yeah, that was interesting. I read something about that. They kind of knew that swampy areas with stagnant water and low lying areas would be associated with some of these diseases. They didn't know really about mosquitoes or the mosquito life cycle. They made that association which I think is kind of interesting and it can very well be true. It kind of makes sense. If you have the money and you have the property, hey, build up on the higher hilltops where it is breezier and you are not going to be bothered as much by mosquitoes. They are weak flyers as adults.
>> I thought that was pretty, a little interesting background on that.
So you talked about how there are different species of mosquitoes who only feast on certain species of animals. Is there . . . you know how you will be out and oh, I keep getting bit by these mosquitoes and people say, "Oh, you got that sweet blood. You got the blood type for it." Is it true that they are attracted to certain blood types?
>> I think it is. I think it is true that your different body chemistry, pheromones or hormones putting out, or even different levels of carbon dioxide. All those play a factor probably more than we realize as far as the insects themselves and what they can detect and what they are really looking for. I kind of think it is true because anecdotally, even with ticks, and especially with chiggers and mosquitoes too. They seem to be a magnet to me. My dad can be in the exact same situation and not be bothered at all.
>> But the thing is if there are so many different species of mosquitoes there has to be one for everybody, right?
>> Hey, that's true. That's true! There may be one species here and not another one there.
>> You know? It is kind of like poison ivy. There is so much variability in how it effects people and some of that is just because maybe you didn't get as much oil on you. But also different body chemistry. It can react to different people in different ways. Some people seem to be totally immune like 30-40% of people seem to be totally immune at least part of their lives. But here is another thing. That can change. Kind of like allergies. Over time, if you weren't allergic before you may be bothered now all of a sudden, and vice versa.
>> That is a good thing to bring up. I actually knew a girl a few years ago. I don't know if she is still practicing this, but she wasn't allergic to poison ivy at all. In the summer, she would have a side business to say, "Hey, I'm not allergic, I will come remove it on your property!"
I'm like, actually that's really smart!
>> Wow. Entrepreneur. There is a niche right there.
>> I know, I know. But it's good to point out. She may not be able to do that for the rest of her life because it could change.
>> Yeah. Well you know, mosquitoes, kind of like poison ivy are really important in our out of doors. They do actually provide lots of benefits. Since we do have so many in Missouri, they are an important member of the food chain. You think about in the aquatic environments where they are growing up, they are important food for fish and other small aquatic creatures and other insects. Also as adults, in the air, we think of things that eat mosquitoes. Other insects like dragon flies and damsel flies eat a lot of mosquitoes actually in the air. Things like birds, you know, some of the smaller birds will use mosquitoes as food and also food for their young. Even hummingbirds need a certain amount of small flying insects to feed their young.
And you know, even bats. Think about bats. That is one of the facts we learned as kids. Bats eat so many mosquitoes. They are important in the out of doors for those reasons.
>> Bats will eat like thousands a night or something?
>> Yeah, yeah at least 600-700 a night I heard. If you multiply that by the number of bats we have, it is a pretty important food source.
>> Again, a nuisance to us but still they play a role in nature.
>> Yes, definitely. Just like pretty much everything. Everything in nature we realize biodiversity is key to the health of our natural communities, our landscape, and even the planet. Once you realize the importance and all the different roles that all these things play you really understand how all the pieces fit together and how each piece is important.
[Buzzing sound and music playing]
>> After the break, we'll talk ticks and chiggers. Stay tuned!
[Advertisement - this is Discover Nature Notes with the Missouri Department of Conservation. They bite, suck and itch. A few can spread disease. You can fend off ticks, chiggers and mosquitoes with clothing cover, repellents, and home remedies. Parasites will find some of us tastier than others due to differing body smells. Using mineral and lemon eucalyptus oils, consuming B vitamins and garlic, and walking through campfire smoke will make you a turn off for many pests. Dusting socks and shoes with medicated powder helps for chiggers and ticks. Wearing long pants and thin long shirts and using DEET as a tried and true defense. Follow all product directions carefully. Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing pools of eggs and come out in droves after a wet spring. Chiggers are gone by the time you feel the itch. Inspect yourself remove ticks, and shower immediately after being outdoors.
Discover more by signing up today at discovernaturenotes.com.
The Missouri Department of Conservation - serving nature and you.
>> Welcome back to Nature Boost where we are talking to MDC's Kevin Lohraff about the life cycles and even doing a little myth busting about some unpopular members of nature.
Okay well let's move on. You mentioned this a little bit already. Let's talk about another one. Chiggers and ticks. Those are . . .
>> Yeah, yeah, probably the thing that bothered me the most about Missouri outdoors in the summer especially ticks and chiggers or ticks and Tiggers as sometimes they are referred to as. [Laughing.] But, we've got three main common species of ticks. The dog tick, the deer tick and the Lonestar tick.
They are very common all over the state and they act all kind of the same way. They can't fly, they can't jump, but they do crawl. They have a similar way of attaching on to their host which is climbing out to the ends of branches, especially those near a trail. They anchor with their back legs and they hold their front legs out. They have little hooks like on the front of their legs. When something walks by or they feel a sensation or vibration of something walking by they will hang those front legs out in hopes of snagging on and getting on that host.
>> I hate those things! Oh my gosh.
>> Yeah, kind of nasty.
>> They are little hitchhikers.
>> They are, they are hitchhikers and bloodsuckers. If you ever look at a microscopic view of their mouth part, you will hate them even more. It looks like just a spear with a bunch of barbs on it for a mouth part.
>> Oh dear.
Let me ask you. With mosquitoes, you said mosquitoes can kind of sense the heat and the carbon dioxide. Is that similar with ticks?
>> It is. They can detect carbon dioxide put out by mammals. They can detect other body odors and they can also detect vibrations of things walking by especially along a trail where they like to hang out.
>> They kind of sense that you are coming.
>> Yeah, and they live in every habitat. I mean, their preferred habitat is overgrown fields, weedy, brushy areas. But they can also be in the woods, they can be in the park, they can be in your yard. They can be practically everywhere. It is really good to know about them and some things you can do to avoid them.
>> Okay, so what can you do to avoid them?
>> Well, the best thing to do is to wear long pants and long shirts and to check yourself often if you think you are in the area of them. They can be pretty much year round now. You are not safe in the fall and winter anymore like you used to be able to.
>> Why are they year round now?
>> You know, climate change may have something to do with it but I think they were always just active. Unless the ground is frozen, they are going to be active and can hitch on you.
But some things to help you stay away from them is insecticide, the repellent that I told you about. Make sure you use insecticide with permethrin as the active ingredient. Remember, that is for clothing only. The recommendation are to treat your clothing, let it try and then put that clothing on. DEET products will work to a degree, and you can put that on your skin if you want to wear shorts or short sleeves. DEET products are somewhat effective, but not as effective as the permethrin.
Some other kind of physical barriers that are really helpful with that I've got on right now. I've got some show and tell items.
One item is called an insect shield. It is gators that hook on to your boots or shoes. They come up over the cuff of your pants and they what they do is they close up that opening in your pants and your legs. That is actually a physical barrier that keeps the ticks from getting up under your pants. You can buy this already imprgnntd with the insect repellent on it.
>> Really? Does it last for how many washes?
>> Up to like six washings. It is really effective and so insect repellent gators, this particular brand is made by OR or Outdoor Research it is called insect a shield. So that is something that does help. I use that in conjunction with the insect repellent like permethrin. So you have the physical barrier and you also have the chemical barrier as well.
>> As you have done this outside with the gators and the permethrin.
>> Yeah, permethrin.
>> No ticks? Nothing on you?
>> A lot fewer ticks. A lot fewer.
>> You still had some.
>> You can see it's got some elastic. They can get in the tiniest spots. So you will probably get some even with that. Another option is just use simply duct tape. Wear long pants and duct tape the cuff of your pants to your boots. It helps to have boots that are at least up to your ankle, that gives the tape something to stick to. That really helps to keep those ticks from climbing up into your clothing and it keeps them out. It forces them on the outside of the clothing where the treatment is. I have found ticks dead before they got to my knee. So it does work.
>> Oh really? Okay. Alright.
Talk to me about seed ticks. Are seed ticks just baby ticks?
>> Yeah, they are. So there are three main in stars, or life stages of ticks.
After the female lays the egg, they hatch and this first stage called the in star, this first in star they are tiny, tiny. They are smaller than a ground piece of pepper, smaller than a poppy seed. You can barely see them. Those little creatures will need a blood meal. They find usually a mouse or a mole or something like that to get their first meal. They molt their skin. They go into the next stage which is the next in star, the second one. Now they are bigger and easier for people to see them. Now they are the size of the head of a pin. So you can see them. Sometimes people call them seed ticks. Some people call the first in star seed ticks. They are as you said, baby ticks in the first two stages.
To the second one, they have to find another host. It is the second time now. They have to find a blood meal. They molt their skin and they turn into an adult tick. As an adult, they need to find another host. This is the third time now they get that blood meal. The females lay eggs and start it all over again.
>> Okay, I have a story to tell you. Years ago I was foolish and running in the woods with my dog. Just like on this trail and I mean it was July, good dead of summer. Got back to my car, got my dog in the car, and we are driving back home and I look down and I'm like, "Why does it look like my pants are moving?" Oh my gosh, Kevin, there were probably I don't know hundreds, maybe a thousand ticks all over me, all over my dog. We had gotten into a seed tick nest or patch or something.
>> It was. That's when the eggs hatch out. Before the little ones disperse, they are in what some people call the cloud, some people call the bomb.
>> It was it was like a bomb.
>> That is a very unfortunate circumstance. A lot of times you don't even see it until it is too late. Suddenly you are itching, you want to itch your skin off. They are already stuck to your skin and doing their business.
>> One thing that can help with that is duct tape. Get you some duct tape, pull some pieces off, apply it to the tick bomb, pull it off, then get yourself another piece of tape put it on and pull it off.
>> You need a bunch of tape!
>> Yeah, a bunch of tape. Or I've used credit cards and scrape them off, you know. Even butter knives sometimes to scrape them off. You kind of get desperate. It is such a desperate feeling. Just that itching everywhere
>> Yes then you will be in bed at night and feel like they are crawling on you or even find them. That's the thing. If you have dogs or pets that are outside, you know what having ticks around is like because they are bringing them in. There has been a bunch of times I have found a tick crawling on my face because my dog brought it in or crawling on my bed.
>> Yep. Ticks they do. They can cause some diseases that are really problems not only for people but also for pets. Some of the common ones are probably the two most common ones are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or leukosis, and they can cause Lyme's Disease and most recently something called the Bourbon virus and also the Heartland virus.
Some of these we are just kind of learning about but we know they can be carried by ticks. Some of those can be carried by mosquitoes, also. These are some diseases that can effect dogs pretty commonly, too. Vets are becoming more aware of this and just treat dogs that are more outside more regularly just assuming that they will have some of these diseases.
>> Oh, absolutely because you can't tell a dog not to run around in the woods. You know. It is going to do what it wants to do.
>> Yeah, and with all that fur it is really hard to see it. Prevention you know, there is some prevention you can get for dogs. But, just being aware for people and just knowing that in the summer months you have to check more often. One key is to get those things off as soon as possible. The longer they are attached the more likely they are to transmit diseases into your bloodstream.
Get them off. Check often. Get them off as soon as you can. If you see that tick bite that is starting to get a bulls eye around it or is getting red or hard, a bump, and just not going away it is probably best to go to the doctor and start the treatments right away.
The sooner you start those treatments for tick borne disease, the better your chance of recovery is.
>> So if you do find a tick on you, is there a certain way it should be removed?
>> Yeah, one thing is to grab it right behind the mouth parts. You can use your fingers, but tweezers are sometimes helpful. Just be careful while that tick is attached. Don't squeeze the body. Don't squeeze the body fluid from the tick into you. Make sure you grab by the mouth part or the head, and just pull it straight out. Then after you do that, wash it with soap and water and use like an antibiotic and use some cream on there because that can help with some of the transmission and even some of the secondary infection. That can keep that down.
>> Good to know.
>> As much as I don't like them and as much as I want to burn them all, especially after you know, going into a seed nest, or tick bomb as you say. They do have benefits. So let's talk about that.
>> Well, I am sure. I know enough about biology and ecosystems and biodiversity to know that I can't think of anything that doesn't have benefits to the greater good of our natural communities. But here is another kind of perspective which I think is interesting. Predators outright kill their food and that is their role. That's great. Ticks on the other hand just borrow a little bit of blood and then the host can go on their merry way. Maybe they are not so bad. They just are borrowing a little bit from you.
>> They are just going along and taking a sip from you every now and then.
>> Here's another thing, the tick might say, "Hey, it is not me causing the problem. It is these bacteria and protozoans in the virus that are really causing the problems. These things just happen to be using me because I bite and suck the blood out of mammals."
But hey, that's just what I do and it is really the viruses and the bacteria that is really the problem.
>> That's a good point. Let me ask you this. Whenever they because we have all seen how big they can get once they've gorged themselves on their host and they are just so full of blood. Then I think they get so big they can't really attach anymore. What happens after that? Do they just die after that?
>> Yeah, that's the end of their life cycle. So normally we think of ticks as about the size of a sesame seed, an eighth of an inch or smaller. But at that last stage of life, about when the female is ready to lay eggs then she can get up to 3/8th of an inch. The dog ticks will get a weird gray color. They just need to lay eggs and they don't need to attach on anything anymore. After they do lay eggs, they die. That is the end of their lifecycle anyway.
>> Okay, let's talk about one more similar kind of a blood . . . well, are chiggers really blood suckers?
>> Not really. They do kind of bite into the skin. They don't really go into your skin. They just cause a reaction to that bite. For as small as they are, they really cause a lot of itching and fortunately a lot of the preventive things that we do for ticks is also most protective against chiggers. You don't need to learn a whole new set of stuff just for chiggers.
They are kind of insidious because they are so tiny. Most people don't even see them because they are so small.
>> We wouldn't be able to find a chigger right now?
>> No, no. If you have really good eyes and maybe use a wet cloth dragging it through the brush you might be able to see them. They are invisible to most people.
The preventive measures are pretty much the same as for ticks. Use that physical barrier like long pants. Use your duct tape, insect gators, and use your insect repellent. They aren't insects, actually, they are a type of a mite. But they do. Yeah.
>> Making me shake a little.
>> Permethrin is really the best stuff. It actually will kill them. Treatment with the permethrin is really the best.
>> Okay. And is there a certain . . . it is kind of the same treatment as a mosquito bite if you do end up getting bitten by one?
>> They are not so bad as far as the bite itself. They will cause a little bit of itching but usually not persistent. A tick, a bite will bother me for three weeks straight itchy, itchy, itchy. A mosquito maybe ten fifteen minutes it is not so bad. There is such a small proboscis they don't have that danger of secondary infection like you do with ticks.
>> Okay. If you have been bitten, say I've got like, I just got bitten and I don't know if it is a mosquito or a chigger is there a way to tell?
>> No, not really. I mean, it could be a spider, it could be you know, a wasp, it could be a bee. It could be some of our true bugs, they also have piercing and sucking mouth parts. It could be a variety of things.
The main thing to do is if you think . . . just to watch it. If it is persistent and it gets worse, it might be a spider bite and you might need treatment for that. If it is not going away and it forms a bulls eye or a red rash or something like that, then it could be a tick. There again you need pretty quick treatment as soon as you can.
>> Okay. I think that's good advice overall with everything we have covered today is just if you do end up getting into something, just wash it and keep an eye on it.
>> Yeah watch it. So like poison ivy you know, you can expect, almost everybody has that itchy rash. But if it gets big blisters, or it is not going away, or you did break some and you know, you are probably get a secondary infection with that then. You really need to watch that and you really need to get treatment.
>> Do chiggers have any ecological benefits being so small it might be hard to say?
>> I will have to revert to my basic answer which is that I never say never anymore. The more I learn about nature, the more I realize I never say that nothing has benefits because I just know that pretty much everything does.
>> Well said. Well, Kevin, do you have anything else to add about anything we have talked about today or for anybody going out into nature this summer?
>> Yeah, I would just say that there are some things we need to watch out for and some that can truly cause us problems. But don't let that be an obstacle to getting out there. There are some simple preventive things you can do. Being aware and being educated about these kinds of things is really your best precaution. Don't let these things be obstacles about getting outside and enjoying the outdoors. There are so many more benefits.
>> Don't let them be a deterrent.
>> Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
>> I agree. Awesome! Thanks so much, Kevin!
>> Oh, you're welcome!
>> Thanks again to Kevin Lohraff at Runge Nature Center for giving me a great rundown on these itchy and scratchy members of the summer season. He shed some light on poison ivy, mosquitoes and ticks and now I have a little bit more appreciation for them. To learn more, visit MDC's Online Field Guide at missouriconservation.org. To learn more about tick and mosquito borne diseases, visit the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services at health.mo.gov. I'm Jill Pritchard with the Missouri Department of Conservation urging you to wear long pants this summer and get your daily dose of the outdoors.