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Ticking you off

Filed by KOSU News in Feature, Health.
July 16, 2012

We thought we lucked out last winter, since it wasn’t cold enough to bring a big snow or a bad ice storm. But, now that summer’s come some think we may be paying the price in a different way. KOSU’s Quinton Chandler has more.

There’s a popular opinion that a mild winter equals a jump in the number of bugs you see in spring and summer. Last winter, we barely saw any snow or ice, so will we really see more bugs this summer?

“I think that the’ve started hatching a lot earlier,” Hanna Wahlmeiere interns with Oklahoma State University’s Botanical Garden. She’s talking about mosquitoes, “generally for me, I don’t get bit until in like mid-summer, which I mean is now but I was getting bit in May.”

Hanna is no academic on insects but every day she spends hours gardening. For a more professional opinion, Dr. Justin Talley of OSU’s Entomology Department.

“I do think that we will probably have not only more mosquitoes and ticks but also a longer season for both of those.”

But Talley says, ticks will have an easier comeback than mosquitoes.

“Since mosquitoes depend on water we’re probably not going to see such an influx. What we’re going to see is this increased pressure from ticks. Oklahoma is easily number one or number two in the number of cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever which is transmitted by the American Dog Tick.”

Top two in the nation, doesn’t sound good, but let’s put that in some perspective. The CDC reported Oklahoma had about 230 cases of the fever in 2010. That’s 230 out of a population of 3 million. Kiersten Kuegler from the CDC says not to worry.

“Tick-borne diseases can range from being mild to life threatening. But, each individual tick the likelihood of it being infected by a tick-borne disease is rare. People should not be afraid of being outside or afraid of ticks.”

Hmmm….Maybe people shouldn’t be, but for Clay Burtrum ticks are just bad for business.

“Ticks cause severe blood loss if you have a bad infestation they can transfer diseases to the animal. If you have a bad fly problem or a bad tick infestation that can cost you a lot of money in pounds of gain, you get paid by the pound for the animal.”

Clay has a ranch that runs 600 head of cattle and he can’t afford to have any skinny cows, but thanks to a little modern technology he doesn’t have any problems.

“We use wormers twice or three times a year on the animals and then we also use topical sprays for the ticks. Wormers are injections that remove the worms.”

Let’s get back to people. Bottom line, ticks are up, but the chances of one carrying a disease are…. “One and one thousand”. So what does having a few more bugs around mean to us?

“Right now the biggest thing is irritation and nuisance and you know preventing you from doing your normal outdoor activities.”

Really? Are these bugs so annoying they’ll keep people indoors until winter? Dan Mesenbrink also works in the garden.

“I won’t change what I do, I’ll probably just pay more attention to what’s crawling around on the ground near me, what’s flying around in the air, things like that.”

Just be careful and don’t forget to wear your insect repellant to the next barbecue.

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