Tick control and races!

Learn about breaking the Lymes Disease tick cycle at home and gear up for the reinvigorate 2022 Tick Races in Wisconsin!

Wood tick on dew-bespeckled purple flower.
Wood tick on dew-bespeckled purple flower.

Taking care of tick-ness

The title of this post is a nod to a classic rock tune by BTO, "Takin' Care of Business." Give it a listen while you read!

Aside from the 1994 cartoon series, The Tick, I do not enjoy ticks in the least. As a kid, we had some sport with them and our tricycles. Our neighbors had two Cocker Spaniels, and come summer; they became tick magnets. Eventually, the ticks filled with blood (see below) and fell off onto the neighbor's carport slab. We'd swoop in on our tricycles and mash the nasty bloodsuckers to a pulp.

A tiny eggplant? A Super Guppy Airplane? Nope, a perfect example of where the saying, "full as a tick," came from. Ugh!
A tiny eggplant? A Super Guppy Airplane? Nope, a perfect example of where the saying, "full as a tick," came from. Ugh!

Okay, enough reminiscing. A friend and regular reader offered me an ingenious solution for keeping ticks at bay while you are out and about and how to break the cycle of the critters picking up Lymes Disease. I am copying his advice verbatim as it's well written and I don't like to mess with good work. Thanks. Clark!

Tales of mice and voles and moles--and ticks!

Now to ticks--and, more importantly, tick population reductions around the home.  Pharmacies sell generic stuff for head lice called permethrin.  It also works to deter ticks.  (Make sure you don't buy the head lice shampoo with it; you want the spray can or bottle.)  If you spray it on your shoes and pant legs, the protection will last many days until the clothes are washed again.

But a better trick is to spray it on cotton balls, put the cotton balls in a tennis ball can (lid off), and place several such cans of treated cotton balls outside your house and yard.

Lyme-carrying deer ticks are not born infected; they need a blood meal from an infected white-footed mouse.  The mice don't get Lyme, but they carry it in their blood.  When you put out the treated cotton balls, mice will take them to make their nests, and the ticks won't go near the nest or the mice, thus breaking the cycle of infection.  Replace the cotton balls if they all disappear from the cans.

And you can tell how effective it is in reducing tick populations by doing before and after tick population surveys.  Just drag a white (better for contrast against the small black ticks) cloth around the edges of the yard--not the middle of a mowed lawn.  Get the shrubs and any wood piles, and then count how many ticks are on the cloth.  Then do it again a month or so after you put out the cotton balls—article courtesy of Clark B.

Tick races - only in Wisconsin

Tick in the bullseye!
Tick in the bullseye!

Several years ago, while working for Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative in New Jersey, I came to Minnesota for training on Marathon Water Heaters, unquestionably the finest electric water heater you can buy. A fellow classmate hailed from Barron Electric Cooperative in Wisconsin. One day he came to class with a tee shirt featuring a pair of tick graphics on the chest with the tagline, "Nice Ticks." Such a provocative piece of apparel required that I find out more.

Turns out he purchased the tee shirt at the annual tick races in Northern Wisconsin. Say what? Tick races? Yep. Tick races! While I am not certain, I suspect alcohol was involved in the original brainstorming meeting. Alcohol is also the likely culprit behind how curling got invented, but that's another tale entirely.

Alright, let's get into the fine art of tick racing. You can bring your own or purchase them from the sponsor, originally a local bar. Contestants place their ticks on a bull's eye and turn 'em loose! Is it speedy? No, even turtles talk smack about how slow the ticks run. Anyway, the first tick to cross the finish line wins! Losers are smashed with a hammer. What does the winner get? The owner gets bragging rights and probably a beer. The tick gets smashed...at least it goes last.

COVID and other factors caused a relocation of the annual event and an eventual cessation. Well, dry your eyes, tick race fans. It's back and better than ever!! Read about the reinvigorated event and make plans to get your tick registered early. There are no, I repeat, no performance enhancers permitted. If discovered, your tick will be summarily smashed. Oh, wait, that happens anyway. Enjoy another quirky summer activity.