It is tick season and for the next 3 months they are likely to be out in force up along the river banks and for some reason they find me irresistible. I plan to spoil their fun.
Some obviously grab on to my clothes as I push through longer grass or bilberry plants which seem to be a favourite and that is sort of unavoidable. Some I’m sure drop onto socks and shoes in a similar way, they are going to hang on there and get me later. But I am sure some also find out clothes etc. whilst I’m off swimming.
I have adopted strategies in the past with varying degrees of success, such as standing on rocks surrounded by water to get changed and hanging all my clothes in a plastic bag from a tree whilst swimming. Those have been somewhat successful, but if one is caught on the outside of clothes and you put them in a bag it’s not long before they are on the inside of the clothes.
No matter how thoroughly I check after I get home there are always one or two that get through and the first sign I’ve been bitten again is usually there is an itch at the site of any previous bites. Then the search is on. If you find them quickly enough they can be eased out with either a very fine pair of forcep tweezers or one of the special tools you can buy on-line or from vet surgeries and that is usually that. If it’s later and they have properly got a hold then there will often be a little, itchy scab for weeks after.
That is unpleasant enough, notwithstanding that I do not want Lyme Disease. Look it up, it’s nasty and whilst Dartmoor has been mostly a low risk environment so far, Lyme Disease is more common on Exmoor and it cannot be long before it moves south.
There are pesticide sprays for clothes but I’m not keen on the idea of that when some will inevitably get on my skin. However there are also many suggestions for natural deterrents based on smells that either put ticks off or mask the smells that attract them.
The #1 recommendation is rose geranium oil. Thereafter the popular choices are peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, lemon, citronella or rosemary, singly or in combination. On the upside, and I’ll smell better too.
Now, because I want to not only protect myself but also mask my clothes and bag etc. I am taking the view that a spray before a run applied to shoes, leggings, bag and towel would be as well. However, for spraying I’ll need to get the oils into the mix and they don’t dissolve in water. With a little experimentation I have found that a blend of 15 drops of each of eucalyptus and citronella form a stable suspension in 100ml of 50:50 water and alcohol. I have heard a suggestion to mix them into vodka which has a 40% alcohol content so I could see that being quite effective if expensive. Blending in vinegar is also a suggestion, but what exactly will that leave me smelling like?
If you visit the cosmetics/haircare aisle of your local retailer of choice you will find spray bottles with contents for a small cost. Pick something you will use (children’s hair detangler £2 works for me) and you are ‘quids in’.
2 month update. There are lots of ticks about I have been told, but the essential oil spray has been 100% effective so far. The rose geranium does stink mind.
Tick awareness information from Public Health England 2018