By John Anderson

At the beginning of the summer, experts predicted higher than normal levels of ticks, and by most accounts this has proven to be true. The recent finding of mosquitos carrying the West Nile Virus in Worcester is also a cause for alarm, and Eastern Equine Encephalitis may not be far behind. The first WNV mosquito was actually captured on July 8 in Western Mass, but Sheffield is a long distance away. Now, Worcester and Berkshire counties are almost neighbors in entomological terms.

During the summer concert series at the Pappas Recreation Complex, it is great to see barefoot children and sandal clad adults having fun in the grass, but there are risks of insect exposure. Ticks crawl until they attach to a suitable host while mosquitos fly in earnest until a willing blood donor is located.

A thorough tick check at the end of outdoor activities is recommended for adults, children and pets, but that doesn’t mean that someone has not been exposed to a tick-born disease. A deer tick can be as small as the head of a pin and can be difficult to visualize. The best defense is a strong offense that has evolved well beyond the fly swatter.

DEET applied to the skin and Permethrin used on clothing are great defenders against both flying and crawling insects. Always read the labels and follow directions, especially around children. There are also organic options and home remedies abound on the Internet.

An instructor at the recent Women in the Outdoors event was wearing a device made by Thermacell. About the size of a 16 oz. water bottle, the unit can be attached to a belt or carried on a strap. Inside, a small propane cartridge with a contained flame heats and vaporizes the repellent Allethrin that protects an area about 15×15 feet around the device.

He said it works very well against mosquitos, black flies and no-see-ums. Because it does get warm, it is necessary to turn it off to cool down before stowage, and he said, “That is the moment when you realize how well it worked.” It has no effect on ticks, which he said have been terrible this summer.

One of the biggest concerns with ticks is the transmission of Lyme Disease, and volumes have been written about this. For more information go to the Central Mass Lyme Foundation at www.centralmasslyme.org or visit the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society at www.ilads.org

The bottom line is to protect yourself and those around you. Then you won’t have to worry so much about a disease or illness carried by mosquitos or ticks.