Monday, April 20, 2009

Creepy crawlers & fearless flyers

WARNING: Long post ahead Some of you may find this completely disgusting...and is. As an avid gardener and outdoors woman, I come in contact with these critters nearly everyday. We need to protect ourselves from these pests! Some of you may not have any problems with ticks, mosquitoes or gnats....bless your souls! I am guessing though, that if you don't have any of the have something else along these lines! In South Alabama mosquitoes and gnats are an everyday part of life. We are used to them. We don't venture outside between February - November without a thick coating of bug repellent. I prefer Off Skintastic...nice clean feeling, not an overwhelming smell of DEET. No cup is safe outside without a lid, as they will find it, light in it and drown..then your sweet tea is ruined! Gnats...well they are just down right annoying. And then you have the others.... Lets begin with ticks...deer ticks. Deer ticks cause Lyme Disease. Lyme disease (LD) is an infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacterium called a spirochete (pronounced spy-ro-keet) that is carried by deer ticks. I know many people who are infected with LD. Ticks hide in or around various parts of your body and embed themselves. They bite you and the bacteria travels through your bloodstream, establishes itself in your bloodstream and can cause a lot of problems. Some symptoms of LD: - A rash will usually radiate from the bite area, it last 3 - 5 weeks and usually warm to the touch. - Around the time the rash appears you will experience joint pain, chills, fatigue - If the infection continues to spread throughout your body untreated you may experience a stiff neck, fatigue, numbness of extremities Debilitating symptoms can occur over a period of time, such as: - severe headaches, painful arthritis and swelling of joints, cardiac abnormalities, and central nervous system (CNS) involvement leading to cognitive (mental) disorders Treatment is available. Treatment in the first few weeks is crucial and can almost always be reversed. Treatment for patients in the later stages is still under debate. Deer are found in shady, moist ground, often clinging to tall grasses. This is how they get onto their host. They cling on to grass, the host passes by and the tick hitches a ride. Ticks cannot jump, or fly, and they do not drop from above on to a passing host. Deer ticks are found east of the Rockies; their look-alike close relatives, the western black-legged ticks, are found and can transmit Lyme disease west of the Rockies. The Hunter and I ALWAYS protect ourselves best we can from ticks when hunting. Here are some tips to help protect your self: -Wear enclosed shoes and light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily -Scan clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors -Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails -Use insect repellent containing DEET (Diethyl-meta-toluamide) on skin or clothes if you intend -to go off-trail or into overgrown areas -Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls (havens for ticks and their hosts) -Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening -Do a final, full-body tick-check at the end of the day (also check children and pets) Please visit for more information on Lyme Disease.
Deer Tick Full grown deer tick (no this isn't The Dirt Princess)
Fearless Flyer #1
The mosquito...or skeeters as we call them in South Alabama.
There are about 3500 species of mosquitoes. And actually when I think about them...I could just vomit. They are TRULY are ticks. They have killed millions of people over 100's of years.
They lay their eggs in water. So as gardeners it is VERY important to not have any buckets lying around with stagnant water. They will not lay their eggs in moving water.
Mosquitoes can develop from larvae to adult in as little FIVE days!!!! 5 DAYS! Males live about a week, and feed on nectar. The females are the biters. They need blood for their eggs!
G-R-O-S-S! Females only live 1-2 weeks! Which is 1-2 weeks too long if you ask me.
Mosquitoes rest during the hot parts of the day in a cool place....where I must find and destroy! They swarm in the late afternoons, or in our part of the the morning as well.
These insects spread diseases to more than 700 million people annually!
Dragonflies, bats and purple martins are natural predators of mosquitoes. They help control the population greatly. I know several people who have bat houses in their yards...and they work!
Local hardware & home improvement stores sell mosquito tablets that you drop into wet areas, standing water, etc., that kills the eggs. It was made to put in bird baths, and IT IS NOT harmful to birds. Most types are organic.
When I was in college I took a marine biology class. One of our field trips was to a salt marsh, which we had to wade around in waste deep mud. Loads of fun I tell ya! At the end of the day I had over 250 mosquito bites!!! And yes...I had on DEET, but apparently the water washed it off. Thankfully I didn't contact any type of disease.
There are several types of insect repellent that work:
DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) Essential oil of the lemon eucalyptus and its active ingredient p-menthane-3,8-diol (PMD) Icaridin, also known as picaridin, Bayrepel, and KBR 3023 Nepetalactone, also known as "catnip oil" Citronella oil Permethrin Neem oil Bog Myrtle
As a resident of the deep South....I can personally tell you that on a hot summer day there is no more of a pleasant sound than that of the "Skeeter" truck driving through your neighborhood everyday to spray for mosquitoes. Yes it stinks...but it sure does help. That 'ol truck should be cranking up any day now.
Last but not least....the bull gnat
This is my current pain right now. These gnats were swarming The Hunter and I while we hunted. We doused ourselves in DEET, and while that did help keep them off of us, they still flew around our heads as if we were rotting meat. I how ever forgot to spray one important place.....

Bull gnat

They ate my neck up....front, back, side to side! I have HUGE whelps on my neck from them. The one place I failed to spray! AHHH!!

They like to get in your eyes...not sure why...and I really don't want to know why they want in my eyes. They will bite you in your eyes and it will swell REALLY big.

There isn't as much info on gnats as there is mosquitoes and ticks. I can tell you that they MASSES. They will not leave you alone no matter how much you swat at them. DEET will keep them from biting or lighting on you (unless you do not spray your neck). If it rains...they will still swarm. I don't know what they get from biting humans, unlike ticks and mosquitoes. I think it is for pure annoyance.

Protect your selves from theses pests. They cause 100's of diseases. All of us spend a lot of time outside with these pests. If you garden, you are subject to ticks, mosquitoes and gnats. So please use insect repellent, light some citronella candles, and get rid of those buckets holding stagnant water.


Sorry for the long post....I am done now ;)


Jeanne said...

I hear you about the ticks. Here is southern Virginia, tick season is just beginning. We walked in the woods this weekend and discovered that all the Lonestar ticks had hatched. No more visits to our creek until the cold weather hits, or I'm covered in insect repellent!

Jesikarena said...

Thats very valuable info! We live in North carolina so I understand what your saying about the mosquitos!

Kara said...

Ugh, I hate Skeeters. I live in Palm City in South Florida, and before our county was renamed Martin County, it was called (NOT kidding) Mosquito County.

I've heard rave reviews about the mosquito traps, but I'm too cheap to buy one! Here are some reviews in case anyone else is interested:

Outside In said...

My gosh, glad we don't have any ticks here in
Illinois, they look nasty but we do have skeeters here too. It's funny cause my mom also calls them skeeters too.

Ginger said...

This is very informative. Thanks! The mosquitos here are AWFUL. Isn't it crazy how these bugs will zero in on the unprotected area? I sprayed my arms and neck last year while wearing jeans, a t-shirt and tennis shoes, and ended up with about 10 bites on the strip of skin on my lower back that was exposed when I bent over to work in the garden!!

Dirt Princess said...

Jeanne - I douse myself with DEET! I always thoroughly check myself when I come in from the woods.

Jessica - the skeeters love me. I tell The Hunter all the time that if we went out into the yard naked that they would tote me off and not a one would light on him!!

Kara - THANKS for the link.

Outside - No ticks!!! Wow! Yep we call them skeeters, and the males are really big and we refer to them as skeeter hawks! LOL!!!

Ginger - They somehow manage to find that one spot. Spray your clothes as well becuase they will bite through clothese...skeeters!

Kim and Victoria said...

That was quite a rant but you have a lot to rant about! We have all those insects here, but not near to the extent that you have them.

Prospero said...

Where I live we have to worry about Dengue fever, dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF). I have several bromeliads and this is a great place, unfortunately, for mosquito to breed and later infect humans with DHF. To this end, I have scaled back my Bromeliad collection. I also flush out my existing bromeliads with water once a week. I like your neem suggestion. It is a natural product and probably much better for the environment.

EB said...

A very informative post. One good thing about being in England is the relative lack of bugs, but we do have Lyme Disease here. We get midges but not (in my experience, round here) mosquitos - midges' bites are trivial.

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