Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Insects and Other Pests to Watch Out For on the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is one of the world's longest continually marked hiking trails. More than 2,000 miles long, the trail follows the ridge of the Appalachian Mountains and extends from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Katahdin, Maine, passing through 12 other states along the way.

As hikers will be experiencing nature in the raw on the trail, they should be prepared for the wide variety of insects and other pests they are bound to encounter on their trip. The following are some examples:  

Ticks are small, blood-sucking arachnids that can transmit numerous diseases to humans and animals alike. Black-legged ticks (or deer ticks), in particular, are common on the Appalachian Trail and are known vectors of Lyme disease. Symptoms of the latter are rashes, headaches, and a fever. If left untreated, the disease can affect the heart and nervous system.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 95 percent of all Lyme disease cases are reported in 10 of the states through which the Appalachian Trail passes.

To prevent tick bites, hikers should wear light-colored, protective clothing and check the body for ticks at the end of the day. Hikers should also consider using insect repellent with 20 to 30 percent DEET or permethrin on exposed skin.  

No-see-ums Ceratopogonidae are black insects that inflict very painful bites but are so small that a hiker might not see them, hence their name. Welts from no-see-um bites are extremely itchy, can become infected if scratched, and can take two weeks to heal. Since no-see-ums tend to slip underneath loose clothing to bite humans, hikers should keep themselves covered, tuck their pant legs into their socks, and wear closed shoes.  

Toxic and poisonous plants Hikers should be careful not to touch or ingest unfamiliar plants on the trail. Water hemlock resembles the parsnip plant, but it is extremely dangerous, containing cicutoxin, which can cause violent seizures and even death.

Other plants on the Appalachian Trail that should be avoided are poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, poison hemlock, nettles, and monkshood.

Hikers on the Appalachian Trail are treated to stunning views of mountains and valleys, forests and grassy fields, rivers, and streams. Avoid having the hike of a lifetime ruined by insects and other pests by following the proper precautions.  

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