Ticks…If not D.D.T. ? THEN WHAT!?!?

Here we are at the end of April. My wife has been picking ticks off one of our cats all winter. This year…Maybe even THIS MONTH, I have already had TWO ticks…and not just on me either…BUT EMBEDDED!  And BOTH were deer ticks!


I will be 47 years old in August, and prior to this year, I have only had two ticks embedded into my body ever!  Both times from coastal sections of Maine.

The first time, I was 12 or 13. I had spent the day at Popham Beach, near the dunes. I found a dog tick embedded in my head when I was taking a shower later that night.

The second time, I was helping a friend with some landscaping in Arrowsic. I was 18, or 19. I had been hauling brush out of the swale grass near a tidal stream. I found that tick when I took a potty break. It was embedded in a not so polite place. It was a dog tick as well.

That second tick had me a little paranoid for a bit. But after several years, and countless hours spent in the woods, fields, marshes and beaches around Maine without even seeing a single tick I started to relax a bit.

In the late 1990’s. and early 2000’s people from coastal areas south of Augusta were reporting large numbers of ticks moving not only north, but inland as well.

At the time, I was living in Augusta, and I hadn’t encountered any more ticks, until one time in 2002 when I found one on my beagle, after he had used the trees to relieve himself in a parking lot in Bucksport.

That surprised a few folks I talked with.  There hadn’t been a lot of ticks in that area at all.  One thing was certain, the ticks were moving further north, really fast.

Shortly after, I would find a tick or 2 crawling on me once a month or so.  A very short time later, if I hadn’t worn bug spray, I would find a tick crawling on me every single time I came out of the woods, or tall grass.

All our cats, both our dogs would get a tick or 2 a week, if they had been out of our yard.  Since 2009 we have had chickens on patrol 24/7/365, and there are no ticks in our yard.

Directly across the street, where the chickens rarely, if ever went?  If you stepped into the tall grass… Well you were on your own, and if you didn’t have bug spray on you could pretty much count on a tick or two.

Just a few years ago, once a heavy freeze set in, you could relax.  Supposedly the ticks went dormant.  Then one November, a few days after a couple of inches of snow, in 20 degree temps, I was sitting in a camp chair at the edge of a clearing waiting for a deer to pass by, and for an hour or two, I watched the ticks marching all over my fluorescent orange hunting pants, and coat.  After a while, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I left the woods in a hurry, not bothering to sneak, or keep an eye out for deer.  I wanted OUT OF THE WOODS, and INTO A SHOWER to scrub.

After that day, I pretty much avoid the woods, unless I am bathed in D.E.E.T. and since I hate bug spray, that means I am missing out on things that I love, because of a fear of ticks

If Lyme disease isn’t scary enough, NOW they are talking about 2 other fun things you can get from deer ticks. Borrelia miyamotoi , and one that likes to kill people called the Powassan Virus.

In earlier blogs, (”Ticks are destroying my love for the woods!  & Is stopping Lyme disease as simple as DDT?” ) I have suggested that controlled use of D.D.T. should be considered as an option to help control the spread of ticks, and people always criticized me, because of how dangerous it is, and how bad it is for the environment.

I have spent many hours online researching D.D.T. and I can not find a single source that proves that it is a DIRECT cause of illness in humans.  I have challenged my critics to provide a credible source that can prove that D.D.T. is a direct cause of illness in humans.  To date, I have not been directed to one single article.

In fact, every article I have read on the subject says that D.D.T. is a CONTRIBUTING factor to illness in people with underlying health issues, and/or mass exposure to other chemicals.

Everybody’s FAVORITE argument is that D.D.T. almost wiped out several bird species, and I agree with that argument completely.

Long term, wide-spread usage of D.D.T. will soften the eggs shells of birds.  Some birds, especially large bodied birds, like ospreys, herons, and the bald eagle were crushing their developing eggs in the nest by simply sitting on them to incubate them.

It has been a long 30 year recovery for these large birds of prey, and for the most part they are back in large numbers.  In some areas, people would consider them a nuisance.

But these birds suffered because D.D.T. was readily available to anybody who wanted to get rid of nuisance insects, and pretty much everybody used it.  I think it is safe to say they over used it.  For nearly forty years, its use was widespread across the country… and even then, once it was no longer used,  the effects were reversed.

I know MANY people over the age of 60 that remember being dusted with D.D.T. by their parents to keep bugs like lice, bedbugs, mosquitoes, fleas, and TICKS off them…AND IT WORKED!  Ask the older folks you know, and I bet you hear similar stories to the ones I have heard.

And YES!  I HAVE heard that somebody’s grandfather/husband/uncle/cousin/father used D.D.T. and wound up with cancer.  And that is very sad.  But if you query them further, you will learn that they smoked heavily, and/or worked around other insecticides ALL DAY LONG (as in a crop duster, warehouse worker, field hand…you get the idea), and/or they inhaled a lot of agricultural related dust. (as in insecticides, like D.D.T of course, as well as grain, feces, pollen, and livestock dander)  And guess what?  Thirty some odd years after the ban on D.D.T. people are STILL getting cancer from the same things listed above…Supporting the fact that people who worked around D.D.T. could list its exposure to a CONTRIBUTING factor in an illness that claimed their lives.

When it comes contributing factors to people dying from tick borne illnesses, there is one common link in every case…TICKS!

If limited use, of D.D.T. by trained professionals in areas with high tick populations can help slow the spread of debilitating illnesses DIRECTLY linked to ticks, like Powassan Virus, Lyme Disease, and Borrelia miyamotoi, WHY wouldn’t we use it?  It took almost 40 years of non stop usage across the nation before it was starting to be a REALLY bad thing for the birds… I don’t think 15 years – only where it is needed would be such a bad thing!

Many of you will come down on me, and I DONT CARE!  Because NOT ONE OF YOU will be able to offer another LARGE scale solution.  Don’t forget…I HAVE chickens, and I still get ticks.  Not all the people in suburban Hermon, Maine, can have free range chickens, and people in towns like West Hartford Connecticut can’t even have them in cages!  So that is not a large scale solution.

I know, “Kill the eagles, and the mice will thrive, and create more ticks”…Yup, and the D.D.T. will kill THOSE ticks too!

REAL SOLUTIONS!  Who has one???

Personally?  I would kill every bald eagle, and smash every bald eagle egg with my bare hands, if that was what it took to save my son’s life if he developed fatal encephalitis from a tick bite…

Doug Alley

About Doug Alley

I grew up in Bath, Maine in an upper lower class family with 3 step sisters, a step brother, and a little sister. After high school I spent 3 years serving in the USAF at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage AK. I've competed in, and won, demolition derbies. I've competed in, and never won, stock car races. I am the 47-year-old father of an 11-year-old boy who is pretty sure he is smarter than I ever was. We live on a little less than an acre of land in a 1973 mobile home in Stetson with my wife Jen, some cats, a few chickens, and rabbits, and a couple of goats. I hunt, fish, camp out, dabble in photography, gardening, and I cook in variable degrees of near success.