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Prepare well for our insect friends when heading outdoors

The Grass is Greener

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POSTED: September 30, 2012 6:00 p.m.

We have enjoyed some extraordinarily pleasant weather during the past couple weeks. Like critters holed up in a gopher-tortoise burrow while the prescribed burn passes, folk are emerging from the air-conditioned comfort of their homes to enjoy the weather by working in their yards or getting ready for deer season.

Deer season is open for the archers, who will not have the peace and quiet of the woods disturbed until Oct. 22, when the firearms season opens. The insects and arachnids the deer deal with constantly —mosquitoes, fleas and ticks — will have variety added to their diet as humans venture into parks, woods, beaches and trails.

A few minutes of prevention will help keep the sorties into nature enjoyable and healthy. First, if it is pleasant weather for you to be outside, sand gnats will be outside with you. Second, we are in South Jawjah — assume mosquitoes are on the prowl at all times.
It is not too hard to ignore gnats or mosquitoes in the excitement of the moment when that eight-point has just stepped out of the woods. But the crawling itch of a tick up your thigh while you are trying to stay quiet as the brush rustles just ahead is an unnecessary challenge to the hunt.

Fortunately, we live in a time when unscented DEET is readily available. I have no pity for those who complain about the gnats, fleas and ticks yet fail to at least wear the appropriate repellent. Those hunting with dogs have a responsibility to protect man’s best friend as well.

UGA entomologist Dr. Nancy Hinkle offered this advice: Here in Georgia, there is not a time of year when mosquitoes are not active. Remember that week of snow and freezing temperatures we had in January 2011? A week later, adult mosquitoes were flying around Athens. So we recommend keeping dogs on heartworm preventative year-round.

Flea numbers always decline in winter, but obviously they never completely go away. If you discontinue on-host flea applications at Thanksgiving, put a reminder on your calendar to resume them in April.

Georgia has ticks year-round as well. Our “winter tick” is the deer tick, which is active from November through April. The rest of the year, the most common tick is the lone-star tick, but people and dogs frequently pick up American dog ticks and Gulf Coast ticks when hiking.

Advice from UGA on how to protect yourself from ticks presented below is lifted directly from Circular 937 “Protect Yourself from Ticks” by entomologist Elmer Gray:

1. Wear long pants. Tuck the pant leg into your socks and your shirt under your belt. The tick will move up toward the head, where detecting it is easier.

2. Use a repellent. Repellents containing DEET are available in many brands and formulations. Liquid formulations of DEET can be rubbed on the skin and normally will provide protection for several hours. DEET in aerosols can be sprayed on clothing as well as skin for added protection. Permanone (R), a repellent containing the insecticide permethrin, only comes as an aerosol and is sprayed on clothing only. It is long-lasting and not only repels but also kills ticks. The best combination is to put DEET on skin (as directed on the label) and Permanone (R) on clothing.

3. Check yourself for ticks at least twice a day. There is evidence that the longer an infected tick feeds, the greater the chance it has of transmitting a disease to you. Early removal is good prevention.

4. Remove embedded ticks with forceps, cloth or paper wrapped around the tick as near to the point of attachment as possible. Use a firm, steady pull. Do not jerk or twist because you may break off the mouthparts and get the site infected. Do not use unprotected fingers. Apply a disinfectant to the site immediately after removing a tick and diligently wash your hands with hot, soapy water.

Gardner is the University of Georgia extension agent for Glynn County serving South Bryan.

 

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