Back when we bought our house in 2007, there no ticks and for years we walked around barefoot on our property in our forest; rolled around on the lawn; foraged; did the gardening unimpeded by these infamous insects. In retrospect, I think it might have been the elevation that saved us because we are on a ridge at about 2400 ft in Delaware County. We are quite exposed to the elements and have superb soil drainage. Even in the most torrential rain there are only a couple of small patches of our six-acre property that get waterlogged. Ticks desiccate very quickly in hot, dry conditions. I found an article in Forbes that said scientists say ticks are killed after six minutes in the dryer on hot. When we got our dog, Alfie in 2014 I found my first (and only) tick when I was throwing the ball for him, a year and six months after we rescued him. I felt it bite my wrist and flicked it off as it tried to embed. Then I went immediately to the emergency room where they told me to go home. A few days later, I drove to Kingston where a doctor prescribed me an antibiotic and gave me a free refill for the future.
Anyhow, we remained vigilant and used Frontline for the dog, but only ever found the occasional tick or ticks on him. We found a couple on my husband and never any on me. Fast-forward years later to now and my husband has found thus far exactly one tick crawling on his thigh this spring. I’ve been foraging three times and been checking the outside of my clothing to see if there are any to brush off every 10-15 minutes and found nothing. I’m hearing lots of dreadful reports from friends and colleagues about the horrors of Lyme and the abundance of ticks. They are coming! Like the winter! It’s different now, I’m told. Ticks are on the march upstate and outwards. They’ve never been stronger and mice are the vector. I know someone who has been hospitalized with Lyme. So, of course, I’ve been panicking and tick-checking twice a day. And still found nothing. The dog, who bounds through acres of forest every day, has had a total of about five ticks on him in the last few weeks. By the way, ticks dissolve completely in bleach overnight – unless they are waiting for me to fall asleep and crawling away at 3am like a drunk out of a nightclub.
Not that I’m getting complacent. I continue to tick-check, wear light-colored clothing while hiking. Now it’s hot, I can remove my clothing outside. (You can’t do that in New York City).
So like any good journalist, I’m doing my research on how to prepare for the inevitable and allegedly, ticks loathe essential oils. Most bloggers and websites like Livestrong, say that the oils ticks hate most are lemongrass, peppermint and lavender. I also found a convincing and fascinating experiment on You Tube where the tick chose the door that wasn’t covered in essential oils. I mean, this could be fake, but who would bother setting up something like that? A tick sadist? I found one video where a drop of tea tree oil was put on the tick and it curled up and died immediately. This also could have been staged, you never know. I’ve talked to many people about ticks recently. One lady overlooked a tick on her husband’s back because she thought it was “just one of those warty things he gets”, but when she was changing the bed linens she found the tiny perpetrator looking all puffed up like a small grape, and on her husband’s back there was a huge rash. One person told me that “some people do seem to be immune”. Some people are picking off ticks continually and some people find none, like me. I’ve hiked 30 summits of the Catskills 35 and never once seen a tick on me or my dog afterwards.
All these years, I’ve been using Mrs Meyer’s Lemongrass or Lavender laundry detergent. Moreover, my husband hates me doing his laundry because, he says, I overuse the detergent in every load. Could my excessive use of Mrs Meyers have been protecting me all these years? Overusing the overpriced Mrs Meyers, which stinks, by the way? The reason I use Mrs Meyers in our house is because we have a septic tank and use chemicals like bleach and conventional detergent sparingly. Furthermore, I’ve been using lemongrass soap from Northern Catskills Essentials all these years too. Could it be…?
(Before I go on, I’m compelled to write, for the skeptics like myself, that I’ve never been paid by Mrs Meyers or Northern Catskills Essentials, or received free product, nor been rewarded in any way for this post).
All this time, I’ve been putting Frontline on the dog and I could have used tea tree oil? (In the photo above: these are two ticks I pulled off my dog last October).
I have resolved to try the essential oil experiment myself with any tick I might pull off my dog this evening and upload the results to our You Tube Channel.
Watch this space.