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Going buggy over creepy crawlies

| May 23, 2021 12:00 AM

I don’t consider myself a squeamish person.

Spiders don’t bother me, and I have no trouble handling worms. I don’t freak out if I see a mouse. Nevertheless, there are a couple of creepy crawlies that give me the Heebie-jeebies: wood ticks and ants, and I’ve got stories to tell in both cases.

I was reminded of Minnesota’s ongoing tick problem when a friend recently said she’d discovered a decent way to get rid of ticks after a hike. She keeps a lint roller in her car and gives herself a full-body roll after coming off a trail. Works like a charm, she alleged.

After not living in Minnesota for some time, one tends to forget about how bad the ticks can be in that part of the country. Several years ago my younger daughter and I were visiting my mother and discovered a new trail system near Mom’s apartment. We headed out and wound our way through the lightly wooded, scenic area, and were amazed we were the only ones out on the trail.

When we returned, it dawned on me why there were no other hikers. Duh! It was the height of tick season and we paid the price. I think we counted over a dozen ticks between the two of us. We hadn’t even ventured off trail into the tall grass.

Ticks tend to be stealth little buggers; sometimes you don’t realize they’re on you until they latch on and start to burrow.

Of course it’s not just Minnesota that deals with ticks — they’re everywhere. And thankfully, according to pest.org, the tick forecast for the Pacific Northwest is expected to be just average this year, while the Midwest is forecast to have a much above average tick season.

Now, on to ants. I can co-exist with most ants, though I’ve learned to watch where I walk to avoid ant hills. Those who inadvertently have thrust their foot into an ant colony won’t soon forget the sensation of dozens of ants scurrying up your leg, some biting as they go.

Our most recent run-in with ants was just last week when our kitchen was somehow invaded by big, black carpenter ants. My husband had applied ant-killing products along the outside of the house earlier this spring, but it didn’t stop them.

Everything was sealed off, and we couldn’t for the life of us figure out where they were getting in. I was horrified to find them burrowed into two Honey Crisp apples I’d just bought, but interestingly they didn’t touch the Granny Smith apple that had been languishing in the fruit bowl.

Then the lightbulb went off. There were remnants of an old phone outlet behind a decorative cutting board hanging on the kitchen wall, and sure enough, there was a tiny hole to the outside world because the wiring had been pulled out at some point. We caulked the hole, applied some more bait outside and finally, the problem was solved.

I know insects are beneficial. Even those pesky mosquitoes are needed for the ecosystem, but they’re nevertheless a nuisance. At least Montana isn’t on the list of 15 states where trillions of cicadas are about to emerge any minute now after their 17-year hibernation. That makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.

News Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com