Creature of the Week #8: Castor Bean Tick

It’s unlikely you’ll find photography portfolios, wildlife documentaries or any form of public support for the Castor Bean Tick Ixodes ricinus. Not surprisingly, this is due to its lifestyle of waiting on exposed vegetation,such as this bluebell, for passing mammals to fix its mandibles into, be they dog, deer, human; anything fleshy and warm-blooded is on the menu. The tick can stay attached to its host for a few days after this, gorging on their blood till it is so bloated that it looks like a different animal entirely, like a swollen pebble on legs, resulting in it finally dropping off and leaving behind a painful sore. Sometimes this includes lyme disease, making it more of a concern than just an irritating hitchhiker to the woodland rambler.

These credentials make this arachnid a much resented part of our fauna, especially among those like myself who live near or spend much of their time in woodland. The body check for ticks at the peak of their season isn’t always successful (and I have had ticks in particularly bad places, which I don’t feel I need to explain!), and when you have a dog there are times when he seems more like a living bus doubling as a blood-bank for the parasites. But whilst they may be a nuisance, at the end of the day they are just another part of the woodland ecosystem, and like every other organism we share our planet with should still be seen through an unbiased filter of respect for, quite simply, what it is. Even if it is pretty hard in this case.

In fact, I’d say the great thing about ticks within a human context is they remind us nature isn’t all squeaky-clean and disney-fied. They’re one of the few things that literally gets us back in place with nature the moment they hitch onto our legs, and as a result allow us to directly contribute to the ecosystem.

I’d still recommend covering up your limbs when going in the woods or long grass, and if you do get one, get it off quickly. If it’s already bitten, tug it off with tweezers by the head, not body, so no parts of the animal are left in the wound, and if it’s been there for a long time, make sure the wound doesn’t get any bigger. If so, lyme disease is a possibility.

Or conversely, enjoy the feeling of being part of nature’s food chain!

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