Ticks and tourists return

Main Street Bar Harbor

On my way to the post office

Seasons vary radically in Maine, from sub-zero temperatures with leafless trees and frozen lakes to steamy summers with ticks and tourists. The time has come to wear insect repellent, do daily tick checks, and remember that when I travel I am a tourist, too.

Tick season begins about the same time as tourist season in the coastal Maine village where I live. Freezing temperatures keep both at bay for many long restful months, but the moment the weather warms, here they come. Each summer there is a readjustment. The lazy long winter has dulled my sense of precaution when outside in tick territory, as well as my memory of how conversations with tourists are different from everyday dialogues.

I had Lyme disease last summer, and do not want it again. I have an arsenal ready for defense against the tiny crawling disease carriers, but it takes work. Shirts and socks get sprayed with Permethrin, and there are spray repellents in my backpack, car, and my garden tool basket. I now have to remember to wear the bug resistant clothing, to tuck my pants into my socks, to spray, and then to do a quick check when I go inside. It is a bother, and I do not like the additional tasks. A photo shared by a friend who just pulled an engorged blacklegged, or deer, tick (Ixodes scapularis) off her belly reminded me that tick prevention is serious business. She is taking antibiotics, and responding well, and I hope that it ends there. Not everyone is so lucky.

tick prevention kit

Old socks treated with Permethrin are in a bucket by the door for guests to use. You may never turn pants into shorts, but convertible pants have a built-in tick trap. Since ticks are climbers, they can be stopped by the zipper flaps in the pants’ legs.

I become more diligent, and soon the spray, tucked in pants, and evening tick searches become a habit, though not one I enjoy. Life was easier when it was 30 degrees outside. I adapt, and remind others that they need to be prepared. Ticks are back.

Tourists arrive back at roughly the same time, but spraying them with Permethrin is not a good idea. Besides, I like them, and I really cannot say that about ticks. Early summer is full of other returns, not just ticks and tourists, but these are two elements that have a fairly large impact on my life. Plus, I like the alliteration. While ticks or tourists might not like being lumped together, it could be worse. “Ticks, tourists and taxes” was another possible title for this piece, or “Ticks, tourists and t shirts.”

I have done a brief stint as a tour guide, volunteer at a public garden, and regularly brave the streets of Bar Harbor to get from my business to the post office. I encounter our visitors on a daily basis, and take a deal of pleasure in sharing information with them, giving directions, and offering suggestions for meals or activities. This is my home, and I want our guests to love it almost as much as I do.

But tourists are on tourist time, and when I am running an errand, I do not always have the luxury of leading them to the corner and pointing, or going into as much depth as I wish. They have all day, I do not. It is easier on weekends, then I am happy to answer fully each time I get asked “What is it like here in the winter?” That is a favorite question, and I am the right person to ask because I love winter. After I explain the distant views and shadows on snow they are either glazed and backing away, or getting it, and maybe even contemplating a February visit.

But until then, tick and tourist season is upon us. Tuck in your pants and be nice.




Karen O. Zimmermann

About Karen O. Zimmermann

Karen O. Zimmermann savors chance encounters with people throughout the state of Maine, and is endlessly delighted with the tales they have to share.