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Tick on a grass stem by G. Bradley

I'm a great believer that every animal on earth has a purpose in life.  Somewhere in the great scheme of things every creature on earth is designed to fulfil a purpose of some sort.  Even politicians.  It may be a very tiny purpose, like being a snack for something higher up the food chain, but nevertheless it's a purpose.

I mention this because recently I've received lots of messages concerning 'Ticks'.  Ticks love the spring and summer weather, and right now, it's boom time for ticks.  So I've been racking my brains, trying to think of a reason why ticks have been put on earth, other than to annoy the rest of us warm-blooded creatures.

If you're a pet owner you may have seen a tick first hand, and if you've ever been bitten by a tick yourself, you'll know it's not a nice experience.  They head for the warmest, most sensitive areas of your body, and latch themselves onto the most inconvenient places.

Ticks tend to wait on tall vegetation with their front legs waving in the air, hoping to latch onto any passing mammal.  They're usually successful too, as their legs have tiny hooks at the end which are incredibly grippy.

Getting them off without doing yourself more harm can be difficult.  Ticks are 2nd only to mosquitoes for transmitting diseases to humans.  If you try to pull them off by pinching their bodies they vomit what they've just sucked out of you back into your bloodstream, along with a whole host of bacteria and diseases.  Also their delicate mouthparts can be left behind in your body, which can lead to further infection.

There are a number of special devices for removing ticks.  We've had some success with the "tick lasso".  You put the lasso around the head of the tick and with a gentle tug it comes off.  Another method is to smother the tick in oil to cut off its air supply.  This requires more patience but the ticks generally drop off after a few minutes.

Prevention is always best, and to avoid picking up any ticks stick to footpaths where the grass is shorter.  Wear long trousers tucked into your socks.  Long sleeved shirts can help too.  The use of tick repellents on the outside of clothing can also help.

Tip: Products containing Picaridin, Permethrin and Deet are recognised as the best for repelling ticks, but you can make your own natural tick repellent by mixing one part tea tree oil to two parts water.  Keep it in a small spray bottle and squirt it on shoes, socks and around the bottoms of your trousers.  Works a treat.

A bloated Tick after a blood meal by G. Bradley

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