Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

Twice in the past week while reading in bed, I felt a little something crawling on my shoulder. Propping myself onto my elbow, I twisted around to have a look.

Both times it was a tiny dark speck of a bug, not much bigger than the period at the end of this sentence. The first go round, I slapped it off my body and then, realizing I’d not squished it, went looking for it on the floor. An insect that size is not easily found in a dark area rug.

Normally the arrival of these bugs would not rattle me, but these are not normal times. This is the year of the tick, that crafty little spidery-looking thing that crawls up pant legs and burrows into body parts before you even know it’s there. And ticks carry Lyme disease.

This is a particularly good year for ticks (or particularly bad, depending on what side of the equation you’re on), because winter didn’t kill them off. It was a snowy winter but not an especially cold one; the snow provided a blanket that let the baby ticks survive.

Biking and hiking trails are lousy with them, something I learned from the trail pages I follow on Facebook. This week, a woman posted that she and her dog were “covered” with ticks after a hike along the Great Allegheny Passage.

Were those things in my bedroom ticks? The dogs spend nice days outside in the yard; we’re surrounded by woods and have a herd of deer out there. A fence keeps the dogs and deer away from each other, but ticks are jerks that don’t respect fences and can easily ride into the house on a dog.

Yes, the pups wear tick repellant collars – safe ones made from essential oils. But to be sure, I do a tick safari: twice I day I brush the dogs; twice a day I vacuum the whole house; twice a day I get on my hands and knees and search the bedroom rug for things that crawl.

There’s a Great Bug Hunt going on around here. The sudden appearance of those little crawling dots is occupying more of my mental bandwidth than they deserve. I’ll be at my desk, or on a Zoom meeting, and my mind will wander back to that critter that was crawling on my shoulder.

Bedbugs? I peel back the sheets twice a day and check the corners of the mattress. Nope. Something crawling over from the houseplants on the windowsill? Nothing there. Some ant-like thing attracted to a drop of spilled coffee? I’ll wipe down the bedside table again, just in case. Head lice, god forbid? I brush my hair and have a look. It’s not that.

What do baby ticks look like, anyway? According to Google, ticks have legs that fan out from the body. The bugs that attacked me had no visible legs. Look up “tiny black bug no legs” and you get a thousand possibilities, all of which trigger a sense of doom.

So far, the mystery bug sightings have stopped. You’d think that the arrival of two little bugs would be insignificant and forgettable, but this is the Year of the Tick. I went for a bike ride yesterday and sprayed so much insecticide on my legs that a cloud of it followed me down the trail. Around mile five I felt a little something on my elbow. The wheels went wobbly as I reached away from the handlebars to swat it away.

But first, I had a good look. It was not a tick. I don’t think.

Beth Dolinar can be reached at

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