We have been scaring Ms. EThompson with snake stories after learning that she is moving to an area of northern Florida where poisonous snakes abound. However, I think we would be best to spend our energies cautioning about ticks.
Ticks are small critters that feed on your blood, like mosquitoes, but different. They are little crawlers. They are a pest that, like mosquitoes, carry disease. Some tick-borne diseases are very serious, like Lyme Disease. There are sixteen different ailments that you can catch from ticks. Though rarely fatal, they can become chronic.
In a couple of recent discussions I have recommended snake gaiters over boots as preferable to snakeboots. Snakeboots are stiff and hot and uncomfortable. Gaiters over boots is way more comfortable, though whether or not it is comparable protection against snakes depends on your boots.
But there is a drawback that must be considered. Snakeboots also provide improved protection against ticks, who will jump off of the weeds and onto your leg, crawling around until they find a place to bite. They can climb under the gaiters and get to your socks, burrowing through the socks and then burrowing into your skin.
So the thing to do is to treat your socks and the gaiters with a tick spray. I frequently see DEET recommended, and that is good, and I recommend it, too, to prevent all sorts of insect bites. It is not completely effective, but it really helps.
In addition to DEET, there is another product that I also recommend, which is permethrin. It is easily found as a spray. Permethrin lasts longer than DEET, so you can spray the gaiters today and they will still have an effect for a couple of weeks. Spray both the outside and inside of the gaiters. Spray pants, shirts and socks. Make sure you do your spraying up on the porch or in the garage, and not out in the flowerbed, because both sprays kill bees and butterflies and other pollinators. Do not spray near pets, as it can make them sick. But definitely use this stuff. Tick fever is dangerous.
A new thing I recently learned is tick tubes. These are coated cardboard paper towel tubes filled with little cotton balls. The cotton balls are sprayed with permethrin. You toss a dozen tick tubes around the yard, under bushes and in clumps of flowers. They are for the little critters that live in the yard. Mice and chipmunks and squirrels and even moles will find them, and take a prized cotton ball home to line the nest. The result is that their ticks die. I have healthier mice, chipmunks and squirrels now, and the result is also that we have fewer ticks. I have noticed a difference after just one year.
I could make my own but I am too triflin’ lazy and too bothered by the chemical to want to do that by hand. They come in a box of a dozen tubes. We put out two dozen in early spring, and then another dozen in late spring. We don’t see the tubes again until the foliage dies in winter, and then we pick them up and toss them in the trash.
Opossums are a common woodland critter that have adapted well to the outer suburbs. They are really unusual in several ways. One thing about possums is that they have a low body temperature, lower than most mammals. This makes them resistant to rabies and some other diseases. It also makes them a less-attractive host to ticks. But the main thing about possums is that they eat ticks. They eat lots of ticks. Possums can be good to have around, on account of they eat ticks.