Friday, February 21, 2014

western blacklegged tick ~ 02/21/14 ~ Hatton Canyon

female western blacklegged tick (lookalike in eastern US - deer tick)
Ixodes pacificus (lookalike in eastern US - Ixodes scapularis)

posted 02/27/14 - I remember hearing adult female blacklegged ticks are about the size of a sesame seed, so I thought I'd compare.  Yep.  It's 2 or 3 mm long, depending on if you include the relatively massive mouth parts.

She is my souvenir from Hatton Canyon.  Within 4 hours after strolling through the canyon, my left side began to feel really sore, as if I just had a vaccine shot that gives a strong punch.  I've been generally achy all over anyways due to lingering bike accident injuries, so I kind of brushed it off.  But it kept hurting more and more, so I took a look in the mirror.  Heey, I don't have a mole in that location.  What is that?  Ooof, a tick!  

My immediate reaction was to pull it off immediately.  I think you're supposed to be careful in how you do it, so as not to break off mouth parts or inadvertently squeeze any potential bacteria into the bite wound.  Eh, that's not my instinct.  Get it out, now!  I broke a couple of her legs in the process, as you can see in the picture.  It amazes me how they can get their mouth parts so far into the skin.

I've only ever been bitten by a tick twice before (that I know of), once on my eyelash line while camping on a friend's farm in southern Ohio (I thought the shadow in my view was a crusty chunk of sleep), and another in my butt crack from a day trip to Rocky Creek (it felt like a wedgie). Neither of those bites hurt at all.  So, I was really surprised at what a punch this one gave me for a little more than 24 hours after tick removal.  I kept saying, "I can't believe how much it hurts."  Thankfully, it doesn't hurt at all now.

I'm generally pretty diligent in doing tick checks, which can also be fun with a partner. Who knew "tick check, tick check" could be a bedroom call?  Eh-hem.  But this time, it didn't occur to me I had been on a "hike", so I didn't check, even though Hatton Canyon habitat matches tick territory to a T.  Doh!

bite site on torso 24 hours after removal of tick

No, that's not my boob.  Had to use a flashlight to get a clear shot of the bite site.  It's exactly the diameter of a pencil eraser.  I'm watching it for infection or a bull's-eye ring. Although, the hypochondriac in me is convinced I'm developing symptoms of anaplasmosis.  I have been feeling less than spectacular this week.

There are a surprising number of tick sites online, and who knows how reliable most of the chat community compiled information is anyways.  Lyme disease gets a lot of publicity, but it's not the only tickborne disease.  In addition to my standard links in the ID above, I want to call out a few reputable sites by name (click around, they did an excellent job!):

And lastly, for a parasite souvenir to beat them all, check out fellow blogger Camera Trapping Campus' bot flies from Belize.

ps 03/08/14 - TickEncounter contacted me fairly quickly confirming my ID and asking what type of seed was in the picture I submitted via their online form.  I replied with a link to here.  Whoa!  Whoever is writing me sure has a lot of character.  S/he is incredibly interested in Garrapata State Park, which means "tick" in Spanish.  I gave them local CNPS and FOG contact information, folks I figured would be most familiar with Garrapata's ticks.  They also asked me if they could adapt my blog post for TickEncounter.  Sure.

With their permission and edit (which I found curious), here's what they said, "Thanks Katie for the backstory. One of those other tick bites must have been a western blacklegged tick, too. That earlier bite "primed" you to react like you did.  Our studies suggest strongly that a certain protein or proteins in the tick saliva stimulate an IgE response. On re-exposure, the antigen-bound IgE also binds to basophils through their Fc receptors, activating the basophils to release their "payload" of histamine and other cytokines--resulting in the immediate type hypersensitivity rxn that your body so aptly displayed.  Itching from a tick bite might seem annoying but hey, if it helps alert you to the tick so you can promptly remove it then maybe its a good thing." 

Well, I have to say I wouldn't call the pain I felt with my bite as "itching".  In any case...  Doh!  A classic Jones-Mote levels of hypersensitivity!  That's why I didn't have a reaction from the first bites of 2 different species of tick, my body hadn't made antigens yet.  It's interesting that my initial lack of reactions look like they're specific to the type of tick (Ohio does not have I. pacificus).  I barely remember this from my Medical Entomology class (I think professionals use another reaction model now besides Jones-Mote), but the first time someone gets bitten by certain insects and related, they will not have a reaction.  None.  I'm serious.  Hence why I think so many diagnosed with Lyme disease never even knew they had been bitten by a tick.  Given enough time (~2 weeks?) for the body to create antigens, there will be an immediate reaction upon the 2nd bite.  More bites?  Then a delayed reaction after a day or more.  Eventually if bitten, like constantly, the body will go back to not having a reaction at all.  Crazy, huh?  (Disclaimer: I could totally be recalling this incorrectly, but I can't find anything online that isn't bogged down in immunoglobulin gobbledygook.)


JK said...

Asking a girl to help out with a tick check has never worked for me, but maybe I am asking the wrong girls. They might do it begrudgingly, but I end up showering alone after the check.

That bite does look painful. Quite a bruise.

Thanks for the link.

Imperfect and Tense said...

Citizen science, up close and personal :o(

I hope there are no lasting effects.

Many thanks for the reminders of how to deal with ticks, and also the 'marriage guidance'!

Katie (Nature ID) said...

JK, haha. The Tick Check, Chick Check Test is obligatory for any self-respecting naturalist who's into girls. I would have been more than happy to pop your bot flies for you. ;)

Hey, Graeme, welcome back to the land of internet access. I submitted my bite find to TickEncounter, just like the good citizen scientist that I am. I have my doc on speed dial, but I try to avoid prophylactic antibiotic use if I can help it.

Jennifer said...

Yikes, that is nasty!

Bowie is still recovering from a tick bite he got a couple weeks ago. They really are awful little things.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Jennifer, I hope you got my tick check e-mail in time. You have to click through to JK's bot flies post. I know you'll think it's so gross. And, it is!

Jeannette said...

Now that it is March rather than February, and some rain must have come even to the dry central coast by now ( we have had some good ones moving south over us)
and more time has passed since this nasty bite...I hope you are feeling much better!

Jennifer said...

Yes thanks for the warning…..I immediately went to check Bowie and myself and luckily we were ok.

So I checked out JK's post on the bot fly. All I can say is eeeeeeeeeeek!!!!!!!! I'm still shuttering.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

If anyone is interested, I've added a postscript above talking about TickEncounter and Jones-Mote.