"Ticks are blood-feeding parasites that are often found in tall grass where they will wait to attach to a passing host. A tick will attach itself to its host by inserting its chelicerae (cutting mandibles) and hypostome (feeding tube) into the skin. The hypostome is covered with recurved teeth and serves as a hammer.
Physical contact is not the only method of transportation for ticks. Ticks can't jump or fly. Some species stalk the host from ground level, emerging from cracks or crevices located in the woods or even inside a home or kennel, where infestations of "seed ticks" (the six-legged stage of newborn ticks) can attack in numbers up to 30,000 at a time. Weak or elderly dogs, puppies, and cats are particularly endangered and can die from anemia from a sudden influx of seed ticks. Seed ticks also attack horses, cattle, moose, lions and other mammals, causing anemia, various diseases, paralysis and even death. Such infestations can be difficult to detect until thousands have attached themselves to an animal and eradication can be difficult.
Mature ticks are harder to see. Frequent grooming and chemicals for control may control the spread of seed ticks and adults.
Changes in temperature and day length are some of the factors signalling a tick to seek a host. Ticks can detect heat emitted or carbon dioxide respired from a nearby host. They will generally drop off the animal when full, but this may take several days. In some cases ticks will live for some time on the blood of an animal. Ticks are more active outdoors in warm weather, but can attack a host at any time.
Ticks can be found in most wooded or forested regions throughout the world. They are especially common in areas where there are deer trails or human tracks. Ticks are especially abundant near water, where warm-blooded animals come to drink, and in meadows wherever shrubs and brush provide woody surfaces and cover."
This is the downside of our lovely jaunt in the swampy area around the Yakima River yesterday. "Forested region?" Check. "Deer trails or human tracks?" Check. "Near water...in meadows [of] shrubs and brush provide woody surfaces and cover?" Check. In other words, thanks to all the rain, the cool weather, the mild winter, our hiking location yesterday was a perfect example of "ticklandia."
We discovered two ticks on Lady at the hike, two more at home, none of them embedded. We thought we had thoroughly checked ourselves, too.
And then Samuel came home from watching a baseball game down the street: "Mom! Guess what I found on the bill of my baseball hat? A tick! I squished it." Three full hours since coming home from the hike. Oh my. We did a head search: nothing.
I figure all is well and good, post a funny little quip on Facebook about the horrors of ticks and all that. Think we are beyond feeling itchy, we are free and clear, etc. etc.
Later that night, Grace came flying down the stairs after her evening shower: "Mom! I think I have a tick in my head!" My stomach turned. Ticks on a dog are one thing. Ticks on a person? I think of vampires and leeches and bats and... ticks. Sure enough, we part her hair and there are two lovely little dog ticks affixed to my daughter's head, side by side like they're on a dinner date. Embedded but not engorged. Samuel starts screaming which starts Grace crying and Dave and I scurrying around trying to find the proper paraphernalia to address the situation. Calm, calm, calm. Right? That's what we parents are supposed to be. I poured the alcohol, Samuel grabbed the tweezers, Dave located the ticks again under a nice bright light. I pulled them out one at a time, dropped them in the alcohol, dabbed Grace's head with hydrogen peroxide, and then we all proceeded to check ourselves AGAIN for ticks.
What is the point of this long post? To wonder why in the world (literally) ticks exist. I mean, are parasites a natural part of the world order? If we lost ticks from the face of the earth, what balance would be upset? I get the salmon connection in our rivers. It's a no-brainer. Same for bees, ladybugs, wolves, and certain bacteria. But ticks? If I was a religious person maybe I would tell myself God put ticks on Earth for a purpose and then trot out the "God works in mysterious ways/It's not for us to question" panacea for these kinds of conundrums. But I'm not. I fit more in the Buddhist way of thinking--all sentient beings are connected, interdependence is the fabric of our world, and so on. Still, I am going to be thinking about this for a while.