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let’s twist (ticks) again…

tick twister LET’S TWIST AGAIN, like we did last summer…twist ticks, that is, right out of and off ourselves, thank you. As the garden awakens, so do the ticks, which makes the Tick Twister, a tiny green plastic crowbar of a thing, as essential as a good pair of Felco’s and a long-handled round-point shovel. Are you ready?

The Tick Twister is just one brand of similar, inexpensive devices available at health-food stores or pet stores, and as the latter bit of information implies, it’s just as good for removing ticks from pets as from people. For about $4, it really beats gouging at yourself with sharp instruments. That’s what I did for years before I was given a twister (or actually a set of two, which is how they came packaged when I got mine) as a gift.

Now I’m prepared for any size tick. The working end slips between your skin and the embedded tick, and the notch in the device allows you to grab the embedded tick securely. The key: don’t pull, but twist. Out comes the invader, embedded mouth parts and all. Voila! One last note: The latest model looks a little different, but works just as well or better…and the price remains the same.

  1. Jen says:

    A better solution is to take a gob of vaseline and smother it on the tick. If they can’t breathe they will back themselves out. Then you take a paper towel or something and wipe the whole mess off.

    No special tools, just something most people already have in their medicine cabinet.

  2. mplonski says:

    I have never seen these before. I have been lucky enough to find another tool for this job. Her name is Nedra and she is my wife. She uses her precision fingernails to grasp the little bugger and does the same patented twist that the above tool recommends.

  3. margaret says:

    Welcome, Mike, to A Way to Garden.
    You sound like a lucky man. I have pulled out my share of ticks over the years and never knew of this $4 device until a year ago. Not as lovely as a Nedra, but better than breaking off the thing in the process of extraction, to be sure.
    Margaret

  4. Kassie says:

    I just pulled a tick out of behind my knee not an hour ago, and it took some yanking indeed. I didn’t know about the twist, so thanks for that tip. Have you gotten Lyme? I’ve had it twice, and my husband doesn’t understand why I continue to go in the garden…I wonder sometimes, too !!

  5. margaret says:

    Welcome to A Way to Garden, Kassie.
    I have had many embedded ticks and always go to the doctor to check that they have been thoroughly removed. I am pretty fanatical about the tick-check ritual…putting the clothes I’ve worn outside instead of bringing them in when I’m done for the day, checking again at shower time and the next morning, etc. Some always slip by, but so far, no Lyme. I am crossing my fingers for both of us this season.
    Margaret

  6. denden8148 says:

    here in dutchess county ny, we have a big tick problem. my son caught lyme disease when he was 10. we didn’t have it diagnosed correctly for about 2 months ( low grade fevers, sore knees/elbows). the dr gave him amoxicillin & said if the lyme ever comes back, the symptoms will be no worse than when it was 1st diagnosed. 12 years later, he’s still lyme free. also, blood tests can show how far back you got infected.

  7. Mark says:

    Actually applying Vaseline or any other substance (have heard of gasoline, rubbing alcohol, a lit match, etc.) intended to smother or burn has the effect of distressing the tick, causing it to essentially regurgitate fluid possibly containing pathogens into your system. The best method of removal is a quick but sure pull with a twist, followed by disinfecting with soap, water and a bit of alcohol on the area.

  8. margaret says:

    Welcome, Mark–and thanks for this information. I know it’s important to get the tick out fast and completely, so this makes sense to me. I do love my Twister for this reason. And I will say, I am getting a lot of ticks this year–none embedded (yet!) but lots crawling on me when I stop to do my body check each day.

  9. Andrea says:

    Hi Margaret! Love your gardens, your blog, Anne’s article about you and you. Your godlight shines through every sentence I read and picture I thoroughly enjoy!

    I have chronic neuro Lyme, undiagnosed for at least 16 years, I am slowly getting better thanks to iv antibiotic, a ton of drugs, supplements, painkillers, etc. I am overcoming my fear of ticks and – yes – even grass, so that I can put in a new perennial garden as well as new hydrangea bushes. I am in heaven as I dig, add compost,
    mulch and deadhead. The satisfaction, pleasure and thrill I get from sitting out there and taking it all in is wonderful. I even have a new family in the new birdhouse! Out there I find the elusive ” peace of mind” we all need in our lives.
    when I am doing better I would love to try to build a stacked stone retaining wall and a pond like the one in the NYT article.
    FYI; save any tick that bites you in a baggie and bring it in to a Lyme literate MD so they can see if it carries Lyme or any co-infections. They are very serious diseases that need to be treated at once!
    Thanks, Andrea

  10. margaret says:

    Welcome, Andrea. I am so glad that you are back in the garden, and enjoying the heaven that it provides. You are correct: We must use diligence dealing w/ticks: check ourselves, remove and test any that are embedded, and get “Lyme literate” medical care as needed. Thank you.

  11. Alyssa says:

    It’s a shame that ticks and the diseases they carry have to come between enthusiastic gardeners and nature. Or even those who just love the outdoors, taking walks/hikes in the tall grass,etc. I’ve seen so many people affected in horrible ways from Lyme disease. I know a teenage girl,who also happens to be a pediatrician’s daughter, and her face has been twisted and paralyzed by Lyme as if she had a stroke. A niece of mine who is a landscape gardener didn’t catch the disease quick enough, and it has crippled her hands -they have become gnarled and painful similar to severe arthritis. She can’t even drive a car because she can’t grasp the steering wheel properly. I know there are researchers working hard to develop a vaccine that would prevent Lyme, not only in humans, but in the wildlife population that is also affected. Until then,I question the wisdom of gardening in places rife with Lyme, for myself and others. Gardening can be theraputic,gratifying, and fun, but is it really worth the risk?

  12. margaret says:

    Welcome, Alyssa. A challenging topic, to be sure. I am not optimistic that “until then” will be coming anytime soon, sadly, so I am relying on serious body-checks each time I come inside and checking again in the morning and so on, to work hard to prevent any bites. The range is spreading and already in many, many states: look at the map of where the Lyme tick lives already (not to mention other ticks with their particular issues). I think we all need to become aware and very alert, while also hoping for medical progress as you say.

  13. andrea says:

    I did not mention that I sprayed my property for ticks. I did it last year and it worked. Not a tick on my dogs. Did it again this year. They also culled the deer in my township. It was like West Side Story with the marauding gangs of deer. I just adore deer, but since Lyme; not so much.
    I must say that though I love to be outside with my gardens, if I had not sprayed – no way. Just remember, if you pull one out, have it tested. The longer the disease makes itself at home, the harder it is to get rid of it.

  14. Didi Sinclair says:

    Hey Margaret! What a fab website. I thought I’d donate a factoid I read in “Massachusetts Wildlife”… the passenger pigeon, which numbered in the millions back in the 19th century, was hunted to extinction by our over-enthusiastic forebears. The pigeon’s main food source was acorns, which kept the oak population in check. With no pigeons, the oaks flourished, which encouraged a huge explosion of both mice and deer populations, the main vectors of the lyme disease. And so many naturalists now say the spread of lyme is directly associated with the extintion of the passenger pidgeon. Our world is indeed a closely knit thing.

  15. Joan says:

    With the number of deer that sleep on my property every evening (we had two sets of twins drop this spring), I’m not sure how effective spraying for ticks would be, but will definitely look into this option for the spring, so thanx for the tip! It’s a good idea to have your dogs vaccinated for lyme disease if you live in lyme-affected areas as well.

  16. N. Carter says:

    Several years ago we purchased from our vet a tick tweezer. It’s modeled after a hypodermic needle but in this case when you push the plunger it opens the tweezer clamps. Once they are positioned on either side of the tick you release the plunger and the clamps securely grip the tick. Then you unscrew the tick, but the key here is to unscrew it in a COUNTERCLOCKWISE direction.

  17. Marilyn says:

    Margaret, what a pleasure your blog is – totally gorgeous and wholly practical. I cannot wait to add a Twister to our summer’s tick vigilante system! Thanks for the heads-up (or heads-out) and keep up your wonderful work.

  18. Fran says:

    Dear Margaret,

    You mentioned a particular kind of shovel awhile back, and I can’t remember what it was. What’s the name again, please?

    And thanks for passing on your learning.

    Fran

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