MIDDLEBURY, Vt.—Tick activity this spring is expected to explode, according to a Vermont sugarmaker and power lineman who trains personnel on tick safety.
“Springtime, April and May, we usually see a large tick explosion,” said Michael Christian, a sugarmaker from Orwell, Vt. and a crew manager for the state’s Green Mountain Power company, who has spent decades fighting ticks and establishing safety protocols for power line crews.
“By the end of June or July they go back in the ground,” Christian said. “Then they come back in September to feed again.”
Christian led a seminar at the Addison County Maple Conference in January where sugarmakers shared their defensive tactics and horror stories of other sugarmakers contracting Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses associated with tick bites.
Christian offered some quick tips for scanning for ticks.
He said to use a lint roller to check for hangers on.
“Check your collars,” he said.
Instead of washing clothes right away, put them in the dryer on a high heat setting. Of course check your body, especially armpits and groin area.
He said Permethrin treated clothes work the best for repelling ticks and personally liked the brand “Sawyer” the best.
Christian says he’s already been attacked by the pests as he pulled taps after the season in early April.
“I just came in from harvesting some wild leaks and found 3 ticks on me!” he said.
“Ticks continue to be our #1 OSHA reporting incident!” he said.
To go along with the repellants, Christian offers some protocols followed by line crews whenever in the field:
1. Tuck pant legs into boots, or into socks to prevent ticks from getting under your pants.
2. Wear long sleeved shirts and tuck sleeves into cuffs of gloves!
3. Make sure your clothing is treated! Remember if using Permethrin, apply to your clothes the night before and allow to dry thoroughly.
4. Upon returning from the field, use a lint roller to help remove loose ticks on your clothing. Ask a buddy to help, and return the favor!
5. Ask a buddy to look near your hairline and other places on your clothing that you may not be able to see or reach.
6. Remove your work clothes upon returning home. If you intend on using the same work clothes the following day, put them in the dryer. If you have a steam setting, this would be better at killing the ticks that may have been missed during your tick check.
7. Check yourself in a full length mirror for ticks. They like to hide in armpits, back of knees, the groin area, and any fold of skin on your body.