Arachnids · Insects · Wildflowers

Ticking Time Bomb

We have had some wildlife drama over the past few weeks that is not fun. We used to stop doing tick checks once we thought we were safely home without any friends, so we were shocked when one evening, a whole week after a previous visit to the cottage, my husband found a tick attached at the top of my leg! It was not bloated, like when we have missed a tick on Maggie and they have been feeding for a while. My hope was that it only recently attached and we removed it within 24 hours. The risk of getting Lyme’s Disease is less if you remove them within 24 hours. I had not been in the woods, just in my back garden, which is rather worrying.

Lyme’s Disease was in the news recently because Ottawa has had a huge increase in the number of people contracting it and it would seem that regular tick checks need to be done at home now and not just at the cottage. Somehow at the cottage I am in the frame of mind to be prepared for them and expect them. It isn’t easy to do a mental shift where that applies at home, but it is something everyone here now needs to do.

I assume it must have climbed up inside my trouser leg. It seemed to attach when it hit underwear and there was no more skin. Advice about ticks says to wear long pants, but I am not so sure that is good advice. I have felt ticks climbing on me at the cottage, so I am aware to remove them before they attach. You ignore the feeling of pants against your skin when you have long pants on, so you are not necessarily going to feel a tick climbing up your leg in the same way that you do with bare legs.   Just going into the garden and standing long enough for a tick to climb onto your clothing is all it takes and my experience is that a trouser leg near the ground with long pants seems like an open invitation to climb up.

So I took my new friend along to see my doctor and she sent it off to be tested. However it takes several weeks for the results to come back, so I had to take an antibiotic to make sure I don’t get Lyme’s Disease. It was actually unnecessary and I don’t like to take antibiotics unless necessary, but I couldn’t take any chances where Lyme’s Disease is concerned. My doctor phoned Health Canada for advice and they said to give a dose of an antibiotic within 72 hours of the bite, so that is what I did.

When the results came back it was actually a Dermacentor variabilis, also known as an American Dog tick or Wood Tick, which doesn’t normally carry Lyme’s Disease. It does carry other things, so I was advised to contact the doctor if I feel unwell, but it has been several weeks now and I feel fine.

The tick I took to the doctor was hard to identify at the time – we consulted all knowing Google, but it didn’t quite look like any of the images we found. Other ticks we have found since then look much more like the images of a Dermacentor variabilis.

DSC_0133 tick

After my encounter with a tick on me, on our next visit to the cottage, we were shocked at the number of ticks we found on Maggie. We pulled off 23 ticks! Then the last visit we only found three ticks on her, which is much closer to the number  we normally find. Normally I am so excited by wildlife, but ticks just scare me! These tiny little creatures can cause such issues and it is so easy to miss them. Tick checks have now become a daily routine at home and at the cottage, so hopefully we won’t have any more tick dramas. However, it does feel a little like a ticking time bomb that can go off at any time!

DSC_3989 wildflowers

We used to think the long grass at the cottage was lovely because of all the wildflowers. Now we are mowing it. Ticks cling to tall grass so they can hitch a ride when an animal brushes by, so advice is to keep grass short around a cottage. The ground is too uneven to mow everywhere and Maggie doesn’t avoid the longer grass, which is why she always finds a few friends on our visits, but hopefully we can try to avoid them as much as possible.


DSC_9888 Thistle DSC_9878 wildflower sunset

We love all the wildflowers in amongst the grasses and didn’t want to lose those by mowing. We still have them around the edge of the property and where the slope is too steep to mow, so we still have many pollinators come to visit.

I love that we have so many bees visiting the clover. One interesting thing we noticed when eating at the picnic table under the cedar trees one time, was the buzzing of bees. There was a huge amount of buzzing, but we couldn’t see the number of bees that equated to what we were hearing.

DSC_4157 picnic

It turns out that they were up in the trees. We later discovered that they like pine trees because they collect resin or sap to make propolis; which is a kind of bee glue that they use in the hive.

DSC_9614 Bee

The bees also seem to like the tufted vetch. Tufted vetch tends to take over and strangle smaller plants, so I do remove some of that close to other plants. But the bees appreciate what is left behind!



One thought on “Ticking Time Bomb

  1. Ticks are horrendous this year!! After a recent 5 mile hike, I picked off 40-50 ticks between my dog and me…all American Dog Ticks. The tick you have pictured is indeed a male American Dog Tick, thankfully in the north your chances of disease from them is low (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Tularemia). A really great resource for identification and prevention is , they have a lot of info on reducing ticks in your yard and also protecting yourself and animals while enjoying the outdoors.


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