Warmer weather brings a plethora of migrating birds to our backyards, mammals roaming about with their young, butterflies flitting around the early spring blooms, and ticks. It’s exciting to get back outside and enjoy the warm sunshine, but we also have to contend with the unwanted creatures which includes ticks. There are over 20 known species of ticks in Michigan, the most common (at about 75%) being the American Dog tick which is not the carrier of Lyme disease. Unfortunately this species can still carry disease–Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and tularemia. The Deer tick, also known as Black-legged tick, is the species known for carrying Lyme disease (left). The five most common ticks in Michigan all can be carriers of different diseases, but all can be treated. Does this mean your summer is busted? Definitely not–just remember to check for ticks after being in the woods or tall grasses, wear bug spray approved for repelling ticks (including my favorite oil of lemon eucalyptus), and tuck in your shirt and your pants legs into your socks. The last one is an emerging fashion trend which will mostly likely make its debut in Paris next summer…
One of the lesser known champions of tick defense: opossums. First–Opossum is a marsupial (still mammals, but generally have pouches for their young and differ in their reproductive traits) found in the Western Hemisphere. Possum is also a marsupial, but they are quite different and occur on the island of Australia where there are 27 species including this striped possum:
The American opossum is…not as cute, but looks are trivial when you are an animal. Opossums really do get a bad rap because they have a naked tail, pointy face, and that shifty type of mannerism. They also hiss and drool when they are threatened (according to researchers) possibly being mistaken as rabid. Opossums are actually resistant to rabies. So why are they our tick defenders? Opossums are fastidious groomers, like cats. According to a recent study, opossums eat over 90% of the ticks they pick up while they waddle around the woods. This means they can eat thousands of ticks in a season!
Sure, they are funny looking, but do they really deserve so much criticism? Backyard chicken farmers are not so fond of opossums because they will target eggs and baby chicks and can also eat an adult chicken. Chickens aside, why not name your night time scavenger and thank him/her for eating the ticks around your house. Thank you Frank, we hope to see you again soon.