I like to hike in the spring but ticks give me the creeps. I read once that you should wear light-colored clothes because ticks are not attracted to them. Is that true?
And do you have any suggestions on how to avoid them if it is not true? Did I mention that just the thought of those little creatures give me a bad case of the screaming willies?
— M.F., Jacksonville
We don't want the mere thought of those creepy, crawly little guys to give you a nervous tic, so we went straight to an expert, M.F.
That would be Jim Clover, a friendly fellow who is a retired medical entomologist living in the Applegate Valley. Ticks are his specialty. His research of the little fellows included working on Lyme disease, the infection spread by some ticks.
"The ticks that carry Lyme disease and one of the most common in our area don't have eyes," he says of a little fellow commonly known as a deer tick. "So they don't care what color clothes you wear.
"You wear light-colored clothes so you can easily see them on you," he adds. "Ticks crawling on light-colored fabric are easy to see. You take them off before they start to bite you."
Deer ticks are roughly the size of a sesame seed. They are often found hanging on grass, waiting for a blood meal in the form of a happy hiker to happen along, he says.
Sorry, we didn't mean to make you wince, M.F.
However, he does have good news for hikers in that his studies have determined those ticks are mainly found on the uphill side of a trail.
"When you take a break on the trail, sit on the downhill side," he says of lessening your chances of encountering the little blood suckers.
Oregon has at least 40 species of ticks, he happily reports.
When it comes to pulling a biting tick off your body, Clover advises the use of a pair of good tweezers.
"Don't just grab and pull," he says. "If you do, you are squeezing the tick, which is essentially a syringe and needle."
That means whatever bacteria is inside the tick may be injected into its host, he adds.
And that thought gives us all at SYA headquarters a really bad case of the screaming willies.
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