Ticks Ticks Boom.

So far this year I’ve found three ticks on me, and it’s not even summer yet even though it’s already starting to feel like summer. And while one of those ticks was on my back, because they like to go for hard-to-reach places, I found the other two in my hair, probably because it was convenient. Ticks like to hang out on low-lying branches, and just getting there must be a pretty impressive feat for a creature that’s less than a quarter of an inch long, and they seem to do it pretty quickly too. Imagine climbing to the top of Mount Everest in a matter of hours. Now imagine climbing to the top of Mount Everest from the bottom of the Mariana Trench and then having to walk west to east across Iowa in just a few hours. This is nothing like what the tick has to do because they don’t need special breathing equipment or even a backpack because all they need is tightly packed into their compact bodies which explains why they make such a satisfying popping sound when you crush them. And once they’re in position they can sense a potential host by its carbon dioxide emissions, ammonia, other chemicals, and even sweat and body heat with a special body part called Haller’s organ, and I wish whoever Haller was would take it back.

Ticks can carry diseases and their bites can cause infections and if that weren’t enough reason to hate them a tick almost ruined my first camping trip when I was eleven. I had to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and I picked what seemed like a convenient tree and apparently the tick thought it was convenient too because when I woke up the next morning there it was fastened between my legs, so of course I did what seemed most logical at the time and ignored it for the next two days hoping it would drop off and not take anything other than some of my blood with it. It probably would have eventually but by Sunday afternoon I was getting impatient and more than a little worried so I took the bull by the horns, or rather the tick by the carapace, which is actually more impressive even if it doesn’t sound as cool, and yanked it out. And everything was fine until the area where it had been swelled up and turned a horrifying shade of cerise. My mother called the doctor who advised rest and applying a towel soaked in salt water to the area, which was probably a placebo, but I got to skip school that Monday so some good came out of it.

I also have a certain respect for ticks. Although they’re not nearly as impressive as their arachnid cousins, the spiders, they are pretty remarkable in their ability to survive and locate prey. It’s also unfortunate that they sometimes latch onto humans because we’re more likely to find and destroy a tick before it can complete its meal and move on to another host. Imagine you wanted a steak and accidentally got an entire cow. Now imagine that cow was the size of the Sears Tower and that it stepped on you. This is nothing like what a tick experiences and the popping sound you’d make wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying.

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6 Comments

  1. Allison

    Ugh, ticks. There was a walking trail in ATL where my dog Lola and I would both pick them up. She was brown and white, and they ALWAYS attached to her brown spots. It was nuts. Once, after a weekend in NC, I was brushing her and doing a tick check. She had a tick, and that tick had a tick. It was so gross. Probably not as bad as your test-tickular attachment, but it freaked me out.
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    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s awful and yet if the ticks went straight to the brown spots that seems kind of smart on their part too. I have to check our dogs for ticks regularly but we’re very lucky to have found a treatment that seems to keep them away. Now I just need to find some way to keep them away from me. At least I can say history hasn’t repeated itself.

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  2. mydangblog

    I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a tick, but just the thought of something latching onto me and sucking my blood is horrifying. I always think that in The Metamorphosis, Kafka intended Gregor to be kind of tick-like, which also makes sense metaphorically in a way. I guess ticks are nature’s vampires…

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Ticks really are horrifying little beasts in so many ways. I guess I think they’re even worse than mosquitos because a mosquito bites quickly and goes away but a tick grabs on and sticks around. While most things in nature fascinate me there’s something about an engorged tick that just creeps me out too. I’ll say this for Samsa: at least he didn’t suck blood even if he was kind of a parasite to his family, and he felt guilty about that.

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  3. ANN J KOPLOW

    I have tick-o-phobia, Chris, but now I also admire them (a little) and, of course, you (a lot).

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m glad I could impart a little respect for ticks, although I do so somewhat begrudgingly. This might also help:

      Reply

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