Compiled from a collaborative effort of Old Trail Farm staff and interns.
Old Trail Farm is a great place to experience the diverse nature of this part of the region. There are dense habitats surrounding the farm which provide the necessary resources for plant, animal, and other life forms to exist and thrive. So far this season we have been able to observe many bird species, including the nearby-nesting Great Blue Herons, as well as other birds of prey such as a variety of hawks. We even had the chance to witness a member of the falcon family perched on the corner post of the garden looking for rodents. The bird was so swift we were not able to identify the species! Other sightings include Ground Nesting Bees. Soundings include the Gray Treefrog and White-Breasted Nuthatches and smellings include the Blue Violet. It is safe to say, our senses are heightened.
Some of our senses could even be considered hyper-heightened because of the presence of some frequently observed life forms. One in specific has had us all a little on-edge and scratching anything that feels like it is an itch. Hint – crawls fast, has the ability to detect the contents of your breath from a distance. Any guess? How about another hint? – seeks a host. If you guessed an arthropod, you are right! I am talking about ticks.
This season the staff has been encountering a high number of ticks. Our encounters are a result of working outdoors in conditions which have proven ideal for them. In an effort to inform ourselves more of what to expect, and how to better prepare — we had our intern Trish compile a document about the most common ticks in this area and best precautions to take in order to avoid them. Trish came across a great resource to help us learn more. Here is the link to the Ohio State University Extension’s factsheet on Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases by Glen R. Needham, Department of Entomology, The Ohio State University; Susan C. Jones, Department of Entomology, The Ohio State University; Richard E. Gary Jr., Ohio Department of Health; and Mary K. Daniels, Ohio Department of Health. Please note: any quoted information is from the above linked resource. Thank you to the OSU Extension for this great information!
According to The Ohio State University Extension’s fact sheet, there are several species of ticks found in Ohio. So far we have observed the American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis), and the Blacklegged Tick (Ixodes scapularis) — commonly referred to as the Deer Tick. These two species are of the most commonly observed ticks in Ohio.
“American dog ticks prefer grassy areas along roads and paths, particularly next to woody or shrubby habitats. The immature stages of this species feed on rodents and other small mammals. Adult ticks feed on a wide variety of medium to large size mammals such as opossums, raccoons, groundhogs, dogs, and humans. Adults are most commonly encountered by humans and pets. Adults are active during spring and summer, but they are most abundant from mid-April to mid-July. The adult tick waits on grass and weeds for a suitable host to brush against the vegetation. It then clings to the host’s fur or clothing and crawls upward seeking a place to attach and feed. Attached American dog ticks are frequently found on the scalp and hairline at the back of the neck”
“Blacklegged ticks are found mostly in or near forested areas. The immature stages feed on a wide range of hosts that occur in their woodland habitats. Adult blacklegged ticks feed on large mammals, most commonly white-tailed deer. Hence, some people call them “deer ticks.” All [life] stages [of this tick] may attach to humans. They have no site attachment preference and will attach almost immediately upon encountering bare human skin.”
“The larval stage of the blacklegged tick is extremely tiny and nearly translucent, which makes it extremely difficult to see. The nymphal stage is translucent to slightly gray or brown. Adult males are slightly more than 1/16 inch long; unfed females are larger (~3/32-inch long). Both sexes are dark chocolate brown, but the rear half of the adult female is red or orange. Engorged adult females may appear gray. All comparable stages of the blacklegged tick are relatively smaller than other medically important ticks [like the American dog tick].”
These ticks we have been coming across do pose risk of vectoring diseases which affect humans such as Lyme’s disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, so we are sure to take the proper precautionary measures to protect ourselves. Precautionary measures include wearing long pants, sleeves, and socks, wearing light colors in order to spot ticks more easily, checking our clothing after we’ve been in a habitat where their presence is suspected, and tucking-in our clothing (which has been deemed the “oompa-loompa look” across staff when it’s overalls tucked into socks). Maybe you can imagine our farm fashions?
Our experiences have been positive in that they have helped us to become more aware and educated about ticks. Although we would all probably rather not find them crawling on us or embedded into our skin, we are certainly glad we have had the opportunity to become more aware of our surroundings and to be better equipped to protect ourselves. We share this information with you as a glimpse into our experience and in hopes you might become more aware and educated as well.