Ticks and The Great Outdoors

Deer ticks can be vectors for Lyme Disease. The great outdoors is a refuge. Getting outside for some exercise is one of the few activities still permitted amid the current provincial shut downs. But as the warmer temperatures return, so does the hazard posed by ticks. Ticks are out already.There are a lot of people finding ticks on themselves and their pets as they're out and enjoying the trails.

Ticks can be anywhere, including backyards. Usually, they hang out on top of long grass or in the bushes, and as people or animals walk by they jump onto them and bite — often without the victim even knowing it.

Therefore, It's really important that when you come back in, you just do a full body check to make sure you or your pets don't have any ticks on them. Ticks can spread disease through their bites. One tick in particular, the blacklegged or deer tick, spreads Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

The tell-tale sign is a bullseye-shaped rash. Symptoms of Lyme disease, whick usually appear between 3 to 30 days after a bite, include fever, chills, fatigue and muscle pain. Lyme disease can potentially harm systems the heart, nerves and liver. Symptoms from untreated Lyme disease can last years and include recurring arthritis and neurological problems, numbness, paralysis and, in very rare cases, death.

Most tick that carry Lyme disease in BC are found in southwestern BC, including Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, the Sunshine Coast, Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

Only about 1% of ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. They can be found year-round but they are most likely to bite from March to June.

To protect yourself from ticks: walk on cleared trails, wear light coloured clothing so you can see them, tuck your pants into your socks or boots, check for ticks once you return home. If you find a tick, remove it immediately, check children, pets and outdoor gear, put clothing in a hot dryer for 10 minutes to kill any possible ticks.

When removing a tick make sure you remove all its parts. If it hasn’t burrowed completely you can remove it yourself. If it has buried itself deep into your skin, it’s a good idea to get it removed by a doctor. 

You can get a tick tested for Lyme disease, but it will cost you money unless it is submitted by a physician. 

Enjoy our beautiful trails, but when you are out there stay out of high grass and keep your pets out of it too. 


It's Spider Season!

There’s a saying among arachnologists that you’re never more than five feet from a spider. That’s especially true here in British Columbia, where there are nearly 900 documented species of spiders.

At this time of year, you’re likely to find some walking across your living room or in your bathtub. They might have slipped in through the crack under your door, or hitched a ride when you walked through a web in the garden.

But don’t worry, they are quite harmless and only there by accident. It’s mating season in the spider world and males are wandering around looking for females. They come into the house, by accident.

The most common spider you’ll find are the garden cross orbweaver spider (Araneus diadematus) and the giant house spider (Eratigena atrica), which are commonly but incorrectly referred to as wolf spiders. Another is the hobo spider (Eratigena agrestis).

All are introduced species and harmless to people. Their lifespans are only a year. When the mating is done, the female lays her eggs in silken pods and hides them away for spring hatching. She dies, and sometimes eats the male before she goes.

Arachnologists say while some spiders will bite, the only one British Columbians have to worry about is the Western black widow (Latrodectus hesperus), which has a pea-sized, polished black abdomen with hourglass-shaped red marking. Its bite and small dose of venom can cause abdominal cramps and swelling, but nothing more. This spider rarely leaves its hiding place and lives for two or three years. It likes mossy outcroppings in gardens and rocky slopes.

Perhaps the creepiest spider in BC — the Pacific folding-door spider (Antrodiaetus pacificus), a distant relative of tarantulas can live up to 20 years. They lay trap webs outside their holes and wait for prey to be caught, then pull it in for dinner. The females never leave their burrows and the males wander the forests.

BC has 893 distinct species — a large number considering there are 1,600 documented species in all of Canada. Our diversity of habitats — mountain ranges, valleys, prairie, deserts and coastal forests — allow spiders to flourish here.

People often blame spiders for bites when the culprits are actually bed bugs, lice, fleas, ticks and other insects. But make no mistake. Spiders are useful to humans. They take care of a lot of insects that carry diseases for humans and cause crop damage.

A lot of people still have the knee-jerk reaction to kill a spider when seen; but, we should just let them live and go about their business.


Things To Know About Earwigs

This Blog is for my oldest daughter who just doesn’t like these critters. 

Spoiler Allert: Your ears are probably safe

Canadians aren’t the only ones enjoying the outdoors in our beautiful summer. So are earwigs. Here are a few things you should know about these creatures.

The Name Translates to Ear Wiggler

There are differing opinions about where the word earwig comes from. Some say the shape of their wings resembles an ear. (My daughter is now more freaked out as she didn’t know they had wings and could fly.) Other say they were thought to crawl into your ear and eat your brain - gross. 

However, different languages have similar translations. In French they are called perce-oreille or ear piercer; in German, ohrwurm - ear worm and in Russian, ukhovertka - ear turner. 

They Prefer Rotting Plants

Bugs can crawl into a human ear, but the earwig would rather eat your decomposing plants than your temporal lobe.

However, this insect isn’t strictly vegetarian. It will also eat smaller bugs to satisfy their appetite. So I think your much larger brain is safe.

They Will Pinch

Earwigs are not venomous and bites are rare; however, their pincers can be used if necessary. According to researchers, a pinch is a defence mechanism. The earwig won’t chase after you, but if you are itching to pick one up - they will pinch- so maybe wear gloves when doing so.

Warmer Weather Means More of Them

Similar to other Canadians who go south in the winter, earwigs can survive the cold but they love the warmth and so do their young. Most emerge as adults in early July, If June is warm, then the survival rate for eggs and the young is higher.

They Have Wings  

Earwigs rarely fly - but the way their wings work is a phenomenon that intrigues scientists around the world. Without any muscle activation, the wings can grow up to 10 times their size and fold back perfectly.

They Love Fish Oil

If you find yourself with a lot of these bugs a way to trap them is with fish oil. Grab a sardine can (or any other oily tinned fish), keep in the oil and fill the rest with dirt. The earwigs will crawl right in.

They Help The Environment

Since earwigs feed on decaying plant material, they help dispose of it. What’s more, they will also keep your garden clear of slug eggs, aphids and other smaller pests.


Why Are There So Many Pesky Mosquitoes?

Weather conditions have created the ideal conditions for these pests. If you feel like you're slapping away more mosquitoes than usual this summer, you propably are.

Weather conditions this spring have created the ideal habitat for mosquitoes to thrive, according to M. Jackson, executive director of Pender Harbour Ocean Discovery Station. The higher-than-normal snowpacks, which caused high river levels combined with heavy rain created the, “perfect storm for mosquitoes.” 

There are 53 different species of mosquitoes in BC, but only the females bite people. Mosquitoes are attracted to light, heat and carbon dioxide. Some only target specific areas of the body. For example, if you live within 1.5 km of the coast, one species only attacks ankles.     

So What Can We Do About It? 

People should protect themselves with repellent against the more than 50 species of mosquitoes that live in B.C. There are good repellents, but you should NOT use the most well known DEET. Instead use products that contain picaridin, or icaradin which are highly effective, but not harmful. While mosquitoes do carry some viruses, they do not include Covid-19. Experts say that mosquitoes cannot spread Covid-19.

So if you are out and about, remember to wear a light coloured long sleeved shirt and pants and have some mosquitoe repellent near by.

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