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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • The Green Space: How to avoid poison ivy, ticks and chiggers

  • Do you come back from a walk in the woods, prairies, or even across the lawn and have that creepy crawly feeling?


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  • Do you come back from a walk in the woods, prairies, or even across the lawn and have that creepy crawly feeling?
     
    Or do you just stay home and wish you had the guts to venture out, but the fear of what lurks out there keeps you in? If so, relax, help is on the way. You don’t have to stay at home and watch the nature channel anymore to feed your natural desire to enjoy the outdoors. Being prepared, being informed, and wearing the proper clothes will allow you to go outside, free from the worries of the unknown.
     
    Let us start with ivy, poison ivy that is. Poison ivy has a compound leaf with three leaves. The center leaflet has a petiole (that is kind-of like a stem), and the two side leaves do not.
     
    You may have heard the old adage, “Leaves of three let it be.” Poison ivy is often confused with Virginia creeper, which has five leaves. Poison ivy can take on many different forms. It can grow as a vine, a ground cover, or even as a shrub. When growing as a vine up a tree, it has little hairs that cover the vine and hold the vine very tightly to the tree, unlike grape vine that hangs freely from the tree, or Virginia creeper which does not have the many hairs.
    Poison ivy produces creamy-white clusters of waxy, berries which are evident in August – November. The one good thing about poison ivy is that these berries are eaten by at least 75 different species of songbirds in addition to wild turkeys, bobwhite quail, and ruffed grouse. The plants are browsed by white-tailed deer. Many people believe we also have poison oak and poison sumac, but poison sumac is not found in Missouri or Kansas and poison oak is very rare in Missouri, and not found in Kansas.
     
    Now that you know what to look for, what if you get poison ivy? If you think you’ve been exposed, the best thing to do is immediately wash with cool soapy water. There are several products on the market which have been especially successful in washing off the irritating oils. Burt’s Bees Poison Ivy Soap is good to use after exposure as a precaution, and also if you happen to develop the itchy rash. It is found in most health food stores, and at several grocers, as well. Another product, Tecnu, works much in the same way and is found at most drug stores and pharmacies.
     
    If it is the creepy crawly-types (such as ticks) that bother you most, it is best to wear light-colored clothing, long sleeves, and long pants tucked in your boots or socks. The light colored clothing makes it easier for you to see the little guys as they cling to you and begin their march upward. Stories that ticks drop out of trees simply are not true. They do have barbs at the end of their feet, and sit and wait with their thumb out waiting to hitchhike onto the next passerby.
    Page 2 of 2 - Chiggers in the woods and fields are probably no worse than in your backyard, so put on some repellent and enjoy the natural world around you. Contrary to popular belief, chiggers do not burrow under your skin; chiggers in the larval stage inject saliva that contains a digestive enzyme and then proceed to drink your dissolved skin tissue. (Yum!) Adult chiggers do not feed on you – they feed on various plant materials and small arthropods (insects, arachnids, and crustaceans).
     
    Use an insect repellent for most enjoyable, pest-free outdoor experiences. If you like using natural products, there are products such as Burt’s Bees Lemon Grass Insect Lotion, or Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Natural Insect Repellent, both are Deet free.
    Of course, when you get back from your outdoor adventure you will need to do a tick check.
     
    As you can see, none of this is very complicated and certainly it is not enough to keep you indoors when there is so much outdoors to enjoy.  So turn off the TV, and go outside and play!
     
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