Ticks are a dangerous garden pest

I plan my gardening chores well in advance. Then I dress accordingly.

Still, I frequently find myself doing impromptu jobs that I hadn't planned for. But even though I may need to collect additional tools for an unforeseen job, at least my standard, gardening outerwear — hats, gloves, boots, long-sleeve shirts and long pants — provides me with plenty of protection against the sun, irritants, thorns and pests such as ticks.

Second to wasps and hornets, ticks are the most dangerous insects that gardeners routinely confront. In fact, the mere thought of being bit by a tick that's infected with Lyme disease frightens me enough to be on the constant look out for ticks while gardening.

Which reminds me. Aesop, an ancient Greek fable writer from the sixth-century B.C., acknowledged his fear of ticks, too — and presumably a fear that he shared with other ancient Greeks — in a short story called "The fox and the ticks."

According to Aesop's story, blood-sucking ticks were sapping the strength of a fox attempting to cross a river. Although the fox was drowning, when a hedgehog offered to help, the fox refused because it reasoned that removing the already blood-gorged ticks would encourage more-thirsty ticks to take their place.

The clock is ticking

Aesop's reasoning was wrong, since it's always prudent to remove ticks as soon as they're spotted. Ticks typically take up to several hours to find a home on a human host, and before they get too comfy and dig in, they can be brushed-off or washed-off.

On the other hand, ticks aren't always easy to locate, especially when they hide in a scalp.

If you do find an attached tick, grab it close to its head with tweezers, and gently pull it straight out. Then swab the wound with alcohol. Additionally, save the tick, and immediately show it to your primary-care physician.

If you have ticks on your property, a good way to control them is with pesticides labeled for ticks, and a way to keep ticks out of a home is to use flea-and-tick collars on pets. Repellents are also available for people. Always use pesticides as directed.

By the way, I recently found a tick clinging to my shirt. So before too many minutes had ticked away, I showered and changed clothes, just in case there were more.

This week in the garden

Rabbits are digging holes in our lawn. I've been plugging them with sod taken from inconspicuous spots.

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