Published on November 20th, 2013 | by Backyards Made Better0
Watch Out For Fall Ticks
For anyone who spends much time out of doors, they’ve likely heard about ticks. Most people know that it’s important to watch out for them and they usually do in the spring and summer months. Tending the garden or working in the backyard is much more common then so it makes sense to be on the lookout. But did you know ticks might even be a bigger problem in the fall?
By late in the season, and before hard freezing is common, many types of ticks will be looking for a final blood meal before the settle in for the winter. And unfortunately, ticks this time of the year are older. They are easier to spot of course, but more will be carrying various bacteria such as Lyme, since they’ve fed on a variety of things before making contact with a person in the fall.
We’ll talk more about Lyme in an upcoming article where we hope to shed a bit of light and clarity on the subject but for now, it could be said that prevention will be the best medicine when it comes to ticks and diseases they carry. And the first step is recognizing that ticks can be active any time of the year when the temperature stays above freezing.
There are several species of tick that can be found in North America. Deer ticks (or the black legged tick) are the one’s most commonly talked about and they tend to be in high density in the North East U.S. and upper Midwestern states, however various types of ticks can be found in most states across the country.
So with the awareness that coming in contact with a tick is possible at any time of year and in many locations around the U.S., the next step is to look at ways to protect yourself.
Avoiding areas where ticks might be heavily populated makes sense, but that’s not always possible. Particularly if this area happens to be in your own backyard.
After finding ticks on several family members over the years, we started to work on protecting ourselves a bit better. Here’s what we did.
Use A Tick Repellent
There are several different types of repellents you can use to keep ticks at bay. Some of the most common repellents contain a chemical called DEET and you’ll find that they work on many different types of insects including ticks and mosquitoes. Keep in mind that DEET is a chemical pesticide and while many folks may use it, others may not be quite as comfortable spraying it on their skin. This is a personal choice you have to make for yourself. The same thing goes for spraying clothing with permethrin, which is a highly residual repellent that works well on ticks.
For those with concerns of using chemicals like this, we’ve found other solutions, using natural oils, to work well for at least a few hours. One example is called Buzz Away and it’s the one we’ve used with some success. It works pretty well for mosquitoes too.
Even with the use of the repellents, it’s a good idea to check for ticks when you come inside. Ideally if you wear lighter colored clothing, the ticks will be easier to spot. Place any garments directly in the drier for 20 minutes to kill any freeloaders.
A full body check is also advised, and if you can promptly shower, you may be able to wash any ticks off before they bite.
If you do find a tick that’s attached, you can use tweezers, or we prefer a tick removal tool, to do the job. Normally they make the job cleaner and you don’t end up squeezing the tick too much, which is advised.
Use A Perimeter Spray
Ideally, it’s better for everyone (pets and people) if you don’t run into a tick at all. While this may not be completely practical, there are ways to reduce the numbers of ticks in your neighborhood.
On a personal level, most of us here on Backyards Made Better are pretty eco-minded. We use very few chemicals around the home and yard and keep this to a minimum where ever possible. Sometimes however we’ve had to weigh the pros and cons, and where ticks are concerned, we’ll tend to be a bit more willing to use a targeted treatment if it’s been proven to help reduce tick populations.
One such approach is to use a perimeter spray or granules, where the formula contains permethrin. Generally, well maintained lawns and dry areas are less prone to having any ticks at all, so you can usually target the sprays to specific areas where ticks are likely to reside.
Control Them At The Source
The final option we’ve used and one that we think might be the most effective, is to actually target ticks at their source. Research has indicated that one of the prime catalysts for booming tick populations isn’t necessarily related to deer (despite the name deer tick). In truth, many of these ticks actually nest and thrive in mice nests, and where rodents are fairly common.
With respect to this discovery, we looked at a product called the Tick Tube, which uses a biodegradable card board tube that holds small cotton balls or other “media” that mice will tend to use for nesting material. The media is saturated with permethrin, which is pretty lethal to tick nymphs, and when the mice take this material back to the nest and the ticks come in contact with it, they’ll be killed. Research by the manufacturer has indicated a substantial reduction in tick populations using this method.
It should be noted that permethrin is not legal for use in every state in the country, and therefore the Tick Tubes may not be sold there. However we’ve also made our own using 6″ cuts of pvc pipe, balled cotton, and a spray on permethrin sold at hunting supply stores. The end result should be similar if you follow the suggested twice a season treatment.
It’s important to note that the suggestions we’ve made here are intended to be helpful to you, but they should only be considered as an overview regarding ticks and how to control them. Learn how to protect yourself, your family, and your pets, by doing further research, and what steps you can take in your specific area, to keep tick contact to a minimum.
Resources for additional information: