I don't know how to explain it. If my daughter walks outside during the summer months, she's attacked by mosquitoes and other biting critters in the blink of an eye. Same for one of my granddaughters.
It's like they're wearing a sign that says: "Here we are, come and get it." And the critters come -- in bunches.
The girls think it's because they're sweet.
I think it must have something to do with their blood.
Because while they're being attacked from every angle -- unless they slather themselves with insect repellent -- I rarely am bitten.
I know what you're thinking -- they're sweet and I'm not. End of story.
Phooey on that.
Same goes for ticks, by the way. I haven't had a tick land on me in years. It has happened, but so infrequently I think the aberrant tick must have made a mistake by crawling on me rather than someone else.
Until this year.
It started in the spring -- in early April, I guess. I went into the house one evening after working outside in the yard for a couple of hours. I felt something on my neck, and sure enough it was a small tick making itself at home.
I immediately dabbed it with alcohol and removed it. Then I flushed it down the toilet.
Two days later, it happened again. Another tick on my neck.
A week after that, I found one on the inside of my right upper arm.
Then for a couple of weeks, nothing.
But last week I was on vacation. I was outside more than normal -- when it wasn't raining.
And over the course of four days, I found six ticks making themselves at home on my body, including one that had actually attached itself to the back of my ear.
None of them were terribly big -- a couple were fairly tiny, in fact -- so I'm not certain if any of them were trouble-makers of the Lyme disease sort.
They were all doused with alcohol, removed and flushed down the toilet, except the one I discovered on the inside of my leg -- crawling north by northwest, if you get my drift -- while I was standing on my back porch. I plucked him off, dropped him on the concrete porch and sent him to critter heaven via the heel of my boot.
I don't like killing things, but enough was enough.
I haven't seen a tick since. But really, in the course of about five weeks, I've been host to about 10 ticks, when I've gone maybe 15 or 20 years without ever having one.
It must have something to do with the weather, I told myself. Whenever something unusual happens, I blame it on the weather or the alignment of stars in the universe. What else could it be?
Anyway, I was thinking it must have something to do with the very mild winter we just had. Hardly any snow or ice. Warmer than usual. If it wasn't the mildest winter in York County history, I'd be surprised.
So maybe the ground didn't freeze hard enough or deep enough to put the kibosh to crawly creatures such as ticks. It's a theory, but apparently not one based on scientific fact.
Thanks to a story in Monday's York Dispatch -- Page 1 -- I now know that the mild winter had no effect whatsoever on the number of ticks I've seen this spring. It might have led to ticks coming out earlier than usual, but not the numbers of them.
Whatever the reason for it, I worry.
Because Pennsylvania is one of the leading states for Lyme disease. And York County is one of the worst spots in the state for the incidence of Lyme disease. So that makes York County one of the worst places in the whole country for ticks and Lyme disease.
No one seems to know why.
I always thought ticks dangled overhead on the leaves of trees, waiting for someone or something to walk underneath them. Then they'd simply drop down and land on our heads or shoulders. That's why, I thought, whenever I'd find a tick it'd almost always be on my head or neck.
But that's wrong. Ticks are not insects. They don't live in trees. They don't fly. They don't hover. They don't jump. They live on the ground. They climb.
So when they hitch a ride on some warm-blooded creature -- a dog, a human, a deer, whatever -- they simply climb up that critter's body until they get to a spot they like.
Then they dig in, burrowing their heads under the skin and drinking blood until they've had their fill.
This is all very concerning. And it's troubling, too, because I've known people who've contracted Lyme disease, and it's unpleasant. There are potentially serious health implications -- diagnosis and treatment are difficult.
So far, I think I've been lucky. I don't believe any of my ticks were on my body long enough to do any damage. They need at least 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease, I'm told.
But then I did see a deer walk across my back yard last Thursday.
So my awareness level is sky high these days. I spend so much time exploring my head with my fingers, I probably look like a monkey picking nits.
Nevertheless, I check often.
And so should we all.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: email@example.com.