Tick Prevention Tips
By Gil Bloom
Associate Certified Entomologist
Arthropods are generally of a positive nature in our environment, in fact we are dependent on many of them in a variety of capacities but on occasion some pass over into the pest category and threaten our health and property. Ticks which are obligate blood feeders fall into that category and in particular the blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis, commonly referred to as the “deer” tick, and which is the principal vector for Lyme disease. This disease is the foremost arthropod-associated disease in the United States with over 23,000 human cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2002. To be truly effective a program which offers protection from the blacklegged tick needs to be conducted on both an extended and personal level.
OUT & ABOUT
- Removal of leaf litter, brush and weeds around structures and lawn edge.
- Restrict the use of groundcover, such as pachysandra in areas frequented by people and pets.
- Keep grass mowed and remove brush and leaves from around stonewalls.
- Discourage rodent activity, especially around inhabited areas. Cleanup under decks and the sealing of small openings around the home and other structures. Eliminate or reduce overall shelter and harborage.
- Keep jungle gym, swing sets and sand boxes away from the woodland edge and place them on a wood chip or mulch type foundation.
- Move firewood piles and bird feeders away from the house as they attract mice.
- Manage pet activity; keep dogs and cats out of the woods to reduce hitch hiking ticks.
- If deer are present consider plantings that do not attract them or employ fencing to keep them away.
- Preemptively deploy host products to kill ticks on rodent hosts and or deer.
- When indicated by monitoring a pesticide application should be made to directly kill ticks or as a targeted barrier treatment.
On a personal level adopt tick safe habits and practices.
Reduce or avoid time spent in high risk areas such as woods, brush areas and narrow hiking trails. Inspect yourself and others upon return, if ticks are found properly remove them ASAP.
- Ticks do not jump, fly or drop from trees, but grasp passing hosts from the leaf litter, tips of grass, etc. Most ticks are probably picked up on the lower legs and then may crawl up the body to feed.
- Children 5-13 years of age are at a high risk for tick attack when playing outside. This is due to the proximity of brush or woodland areas from both private and public recreational areas and fields. While ticks are unlikely to be encountered in open fields, by chasing balls off the field or by using shortcuts through some areas cutting through woods to school may be entering a high-risk tick area.
- Pets who run about and explore outdoors can also introduce ticks into the home. If you frequent tick active areas consult a veterinarian on methods to protect your pets.
When walking in tick active areas:
- Wear light-colored clothing with long pants tucked into socks to make ticks easier to spot and keep them on the outside of the clothes. Obviously open shoes or sandals are a poor choice as well.
- Use a DEET or permethrin-based mosquito and tick repellent, which greatly enhances your protection. If you need to work in a tick active area consider a separate set of work clothes which can be set aside for use with the permethrin-based clothing tick repellents or consider impregnated clothing.
- When hiking, keep to the center of trails to minimize contact with adjacent vegetation.
- If you encounter and find ticks on your clothes immediately contain them, police the area, and place them in the dryer for an hour.
Continued inspection, prompt proper removal of ticks, proper use of repellents and following outlined IPM practices should go a long way toward keeping you tick safe.
Gil Bloom, ACE | Standard Pest Management