The first time I remember being bitten by a tick, I was less than 6 years old and it involved somewhat concerned parents and a hot match to remove it.

That was many years ago. Since then I’ve been bitten by ticks multiple times. I don’t use a hot match anymore or any of the other home remedies; I just pluck the tick, douse it with alcohol and watch it closely. Living in Alabama, it’s just part of the deal unless you’re like John Travolta’s late 1970s weepy bubble boy and never leave the house. Even then, though, pets could haul in a tick that might drop off and somehow get on you.

Since that first tick encounter, though, I’ve tried to be more aware of using repellent including Deet and always checking myself after a day afield. That doesn’t mean just in spring and summer, or just if I’ve been in high grass. I’ve found ticks on me in January and February when our moderate temperatures climbed higher than normal. Stupid ticks.

So far I’ve been fortunate after my bites. I haven’t contracted Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or anything else that I know of. I haven’t contracted the Alpha-Gal allergy that prevents me from eating some meats. I think that would be terrible.

This allergy probably is more common than believed and some researchers believe it may be spreading into areas where the Lone Star tick doesn’t live. The tick currently is found primarily in southeast Texas, Iowa and New England, but the allergy is showing up in other areas.

All I know is every time I’m in the woods or fields, have messed with deer or hogs or coyotes (which are damned nasty), or even work in the yard, I’m going to be checking for ticks.

But how do ticks embed in your skin and suck your blood? Check out this pretty awesome video from the PBS Digital Studios Deep Look series to find out. Ticks have these two hooked thingies on their ugly faces that pick the skin up and away while their barbed-needle sucker thing embeds in the skin. Sorta like a slow piston. Then it stays on, feeding for three to four days.

Sound sufficiently weird enough for you? Maybe like something from an after-midnight B-grade Sci-Fi movie from the 1970s? Yeah, but it’s real life. Take a look below.

Featured image: Screenshot/PBS Digital Studios Deep Look


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