The Missouri Ozarks is headquarters for the hungry tick hordes this summer. For those lucky people unfamiliar with ticks, these creatures are arachnids related to mites and spiders. They have eight legs except for newly hatched ones with six. They appear round to oval in shape although careful examination reveals a head with a beak and a short section with legs attached.
Ticks hatch from eggs. This is the first instar. After a blood meal, they molt and enter the second larger instar stage. Another blood meal takes them to the third instar. The adult instar is next.
The Ozarks is home to several kinds of ticks. These are somewhat seasonal. Wood or American dog ticks can show up any time of year, but seem to prefer cooler weather. Deer ticks are common in the fall. Lone star ticks are warm weather ticks and the most voracious and numerous.
The hungry tick hordes begin their attack in spring whenever the days are warm. This attack is primarily adults and second instar that have overwintered.
Once I sat down out on the hill. A tick noticed me and charged over. Charged is the right word as this quarter inch across tick crossed a foot of dead leaves in a few seconds.
Binoculars reveal that deer are popular targets. Bloated adult ticks are half inch diameter spheres easy to see.
Goats and, assumedly deer, rub their ears, necks and sides against trees. They scratch with their hooves and can tear a bloated tick open killing it. They lie flat on the grass and scoot along. These may remove some ticks, but most stay hidden in their fur.
Some ticks are all business and attach as soon as they find a good spot. Others hide in the fur, crawl around checking their host out for a day or two before digging in.
Maddening as these hungry tick hordes are, the worst begins in summer heat. Those big bloated ticks lay up to a thousand eggs each. Those eggs hatch into what are called seed ticks.
The only real warning of a seed tick attack is the warm, tickling blanket advancing up a leg. Each individual is almost too small to see, a minute brown spot barely the size of a period.
Masking tape picks off scores from skin and clothes. Soap and water with vigorous scrubbing takes off scores more. No matter how careful the search, more are there waiting until the victim is falling asleep at night to crawl across the face or back or dig in setting fire to toes.
The seed ticks have started hatching.