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Kentucky Ticks and Mosquitoes: What you should know

August 7, 2013

By Chris Erwin

We are in the mid-season of Kentucky’s warm months and with it comes biting pests that can ruin an outing or make you wish you had just stayed home.

I spend all my spare time and even some of my working hours in the outdoors. In doing so, I have to encounter these pests every summer. I can tell you first hand that if you don’t prepare, you will wish you had.

While I understand that this is not the most romantic subject it is one that can literally save your life.

I know you may think I’m being a little melodramatic. However, about eight years ago a mosquito bit my daughter, then in her 30s. It resulted in her becoming ill.

Mosquitos can carry a range of harmful diseases and viruses.

Mosquitos can carry a range of harmful diseases and viruses.

We didn’t know what it was at the time but after being treated in two different hospitals, we were told she had viral encephalitis. At one point, she went into convulsions and was transported from Saint Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead to the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital where doctors came to the conclusion a mosquito had been the source of the infection, which found its way into her brain.

While months passed, we were told she had a 50/50 chance of survival. We thank God every day she lived through it and wasn’t severely affected by the ordeal.

So I take this subject very seriously. I mean it when I say you need to protect yourself. Most all of us have been bitten many times by both mosquitoes and ticks without too many ill effects. However, much like winning the lottery, the wrong one can be worse than you could ever imagine.

We have about 60 different species of mosquitoes in Kentucky, at least two species of sand flies, a handful of tick species, and a number of additional biting flies.  While this list of biting insects found in the state is not fully complete, it gives you a general overview to the diversity of potential disease vectors found throughout the Bluegrass State.

One thing you can do to help control the number of mosquitoes is to eliminate as much standing water as possible. All species of mosquitoes require water to complete their life cycle. While I’m not going to go into all the ways you can control this pest, some types of insecticides are used primarily to control the larvae.  These are typically applied directly to the water surface where the larvae are maturing.

One type of larval control involves what are called mono-molecular films, which are basically oil films on the surface of the water that is only one molecule layer thick.  They work because the larvae mosquitoes can’t reach their siphons through the film to reach the air, and therefore, suffocate.  Female adult mosquitoes that try to lay more eggs are also killed because they can’t stay standing on the water and drown.

The common Deer Tick is among the species of tick native to Kentucky.

The common Deer Tick is among the species of tick native to Kentucky.

You should use some type of insect repellent while you are exposing yourself to areas where they are high numbers of the pest. Wash with a disinfected soap and water once you come inside; try to wear clothes that expose the least amount of skin when possible.

Ticks: Brown Dog Tick, Black Legged Deer ticks, and Lone Star tick, all call Kentucky home. While you can use sprays to help repel them, the best defense is to do a body inspection and try to remove them from you and your pets before they become attached. Wear clothes that cover as much as possible and try to avoid walking in tall grass and weeds. If you see Queen Ann’s Lace growing nearby, try to stay away from it. This plant is a favorite launching pad for both ticks and chiggers.

Chris can be reached by email at trimmer308@windstream.net


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