Tick-tock: ticks in the bee yard
I had nearly forgotten about the influx of ticks that seem to be everywhere. After living here for 24 years without seeing a single tick, they really weren’t front and center in my mind. So Monday, when I went to photograph bumble bees, ticks didn’t merit a second thought.
After packing my camera, I left the house and trekked into the Capitol State Forest. We share a property boundary with this awesome piece of land, so in essence, we’ve got a ginormous woodland backyard, for which I am eternally grateful.
Bumbles on my mind
On this particular day, I had bumble bees on my mind. I had seen them—or rather heard them—a few days prior, so I knew right where to go. I left the trail and went overland until I found the perfect spot.
The tract had been logged about ten years ago. Generally, the state replants soon after the cut but sometimes they tarry, so this section comprised very young forest. The ground was uneven, with stumps poking up between rotting logs, sword ferns, and slash piles. Trailing blackberry, in full bloom, covered everything making the ground look pillowy and soft—at least from a distance. I hunkered down on the ground, adjusted my camera, and made sure my shadow didn’t fall on the flowers.
Little did I know it, but the ticks were talking about me:
“Son of a gun,” said one.
“Can you believe our luck?” chimed another.
The third summed it up. “Dinner just walked in and sat down beside us!”
The site I selected had the densest accumulation of bumble bees, but I noticed that as soon as I got comfortable, the bees left, moving about four yards north. I tried to be patient, but they weren’t coming back. Blackberries were everywhere, no shortage, so the bees could easily avoid danger. Eventually I got up and moved. Once again I found the perfect spot, and once again the bees cleared out as soon as I settled in.
I don’t know how many times we played this game, but I soon got bored with it. I got a few shots, nothing great, but that’s typical with bug photography. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t. Eventually I packed up and went home.
During the rest of the day, I felt something itchy on my neck, but when I scratched, it went away. I’m always outside in the garden, the yard, or in the forest where things can take a nibble, so it didn’t concern me.
It wasn’t until several hours later when I was brushing my teeth, that my neck started itching again. This time, I found the creature. OMG! A tick. Only last fall Rich had gone through a full course of antibiotics for Lyme disease, and I wasn’t overly eager for my personal turn.
I grabbed the tick and ran through the house with it, intending to throw it outside.
“Don’t drop that in here! Don’t you dare drop it!” Rich trailed me through the house.
But when I got to the back door, I realized putting it in the yard was a bad idea, so I turned around and ran back inside—still trailed—to the bathroom.
“Don’t you drop that thing in here! Don’t you dare!” The dog thought this was great fun, seeing me run from room to room with a tick in my hand while Rich hollered threatening instructions.
I got it back to the bathroom and flushed it down the toilet, checking under the seat just in case. I didn’t want to end up sitting on it.
By then I was itchy in places where I didn’t know I had places. I finally stripped down and turned like a slow-roasting chicken, while Rich checked every square inch of me for ticks. Of course, now that the tick was safely flushed, Rich went into lewd comments mode, saying something about “for a woman your age.” What the heck is that supposed to mean? He’s sweet, but really?
Ticks remind me of varroa mites: they are flat, oval, brownish, and entirely sneaky. They have too many legs, carry diseases, and are not at all cute and cuddly. This post is simply a reminder that ticks are spreading into new places, and they can carry of number of nasty human diseases. And since they like the kind of places that attract beekeepers, you should be on the lookout. Ticks usually don’t burrow in right away, so if you’re paying attention, you can find them before they bite. But don’t wait too long. Tick-tock goes the clock.
Honey Bee Suite