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"Ain't No Ticks On Me?" You Hope!

You've probably heard that advertising jingle on the radio for a product to keep bugs away. The second verse begins, "There ain't no ticks on me..."

As summer beckons us outside, this might be a very good time to make sure there really aren't any ticks on you... or on the kids, or on Tabby and Fido either.

So what exactly IS a tick? Well, it's NOT an insect. It's an arachnid, which means it's related to spiders, mites and scorpions. According to the folks at K9Web there are 850 varieties of ticks and 200 or more can be found in the United States. Ticks are the most important arthropod in transmitting diseases to domestic animals and run a close second to mosquitoes in arthropod borne human diseases. They transmit a greater variety of infectious agents than any other type of arthropod.

How do ticks operate? They cling to one spot and do not move. They insert their heads under your skin and gorge themselves on your blood. If this reminds you of your teenage son, believe me: these little suckers are an even bigger headache.

There's a wealth of information on ticks available on the Internet. At entomology.ucdavis.edu Larisa Vredevoe, Ph.D, describes the difference between hard ticks and soft ticks, if you're interested in telling them apart. The ones that are most likely to bother you and your pets are those that "quest". They climb up stems of grass or sit on leaves with their little legs sticking up as if they were mini-hitchhikers. You brush by and bingo! The tick has a free ride and a free meal.

What can you do to protect yourself from ticks? Here are some suggestions from Mike Potter, Extension Entomologist at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture:

1. Avoid walking through uncut fields, brush and other areas likely to harbor ticks. When hiking or picnicing in these areas, wear long pants tucked into socks and consider using tick repellents. Walk in the center of mowed trails to avoid brushing up against vegetation.

2. Inspect family and pets after being in tick-infested areas, and promptly remove any ticks which are found (ticks most often attach at the neck and scalp). Use the method of removal described below.

3. Keep grass and shrubs in your yard trimmed, and clear overgrown vegetation from edges of your property. Ticks avoid direct sunlight and will not infest areas which are well maintained.

4. Free-roaming pets are much more likely to become infested with ticks than are those which are confined. Pets may be treated with insecticide dips or sprays, although these products generally lose effectiveness in about a week.

You can find out more by going to this URL and putting "ticks" in the search box: uky.edu

To remove a tick, according to the K9Web people, don't use any of the folklore remedies (matches, cigarettes, pins, gasoline) that will irritate the tick. They increase the likelihood that the tick will "spit up" in you, which increases the risk of disease. The mouthpiece is barbed rather than spiralled, so trying to rotate the tick out doesn't provide any advantage. The preferred method is to use special tweezers designed for that purpose, and pull straight out.

If you have any tick-prevention methods that work for you, you can contact me at the e-mail address below. Here's hoping you have a "tick-free" summer!

The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to [email protected] or mail to: Steve Jones, "The Plant Man", P.O. Box 686, McMinnville, TN 37111. For resources and additional information, including archived columns, continue to visit www.landsteward.org

QUESTION: "About a month ago I planted two new Newport Plum trees in my yard here in Maryland that I had bought from a local hardware superstore. They are approximately 6 feet tall with two taller branches that shoot upwards of 8 feet each. I planted them following the directions that accompanied the trees, and have given them 2 gallons of water every other day since the planting. About two weeks ago, the leaves on the lower branches withered and eventually fell off, which left me wondering if the trees are dying. My dad says he thinks they might just be in transplant shock - is there such a thing? " Donald Poorman

ANSWER: There IS such a thing as transplant shock. There is also a thing called "over watering". They only need what you are putting on them about once a week or two if you do not get a good rain. You should have new buds behind the old and they should begin to put out leaves soon. Just try not to kill them with kindness.

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