When it comes to tick prevention, timing is crucial. Fall is often considered the most opportune time to treat your property in order to maximize its resistance to ticks for the year ahead. Infestation is due in part to the amount of cover and moisture fallen leaves provide to ticks. With a combination of the right timing and effective methods, you can maximize your efforts, optimize your costs and drastically slow tick accumulation and reproduction, keeping you and your loved ones safe in your yard for the seasons to come.
Our prior posts examined the risks of tick-borne illnesses associated with different species of ticks and underscore the importance of being proactive in your protection against them. On hikes or in nature, people may be more alert to the tick threat and may know to take precautions. But there exists a significant danger in letting down your guard and being less vigilant in tending to your own property. In fact, our data shows that 47% of our respondents acquired ticks in their own yards. Being aware of the types of environments ticks seek out and thrive in and effective methods for decreasing or neutralizing the risk are crucial steps in tick prevention at home.
Ticks can’t fly or jump. They will however, wait in a position known as ‘questing,’ in which they hold onto leaves and grass by their third and fourth pairs of legs, and hold out their first pair of legs in order to climb onto a host (as seen in photo to the right). Hosts can include animals like deer, dogs, raccoons, and mice. Installing a fence, spraying repellents, removing food sources and clearing/cleaning favored nesting spots (sheds, woodpiles, stone walls) are great steps for deterring animals (hosts) from entering your yard. In addition, you can also place cardboard tubes stuffed with permethrin-treated cotton balls around your yard which will aid in killing ticks on small mammals like mice that use them as nests. Permethrin is a form of an insecticidal compound produced by the chrysanthemum flower and has long been used to repel insects. Once fully dry, Permethrin is safe for humans, dogs and cats, but should be handled with caution when applying being careful to avoid direct skin contact.
Once in your yard, ticks will seek out shade and damp areas as they are very susceptible to dehydration. To this end, it’s essential you keep your grass cut short, prune your trees and bushes and promptly clear all leaves. Improved light penetration and air circulation are also key, along with staying away from areas which are unavoidably subjected to shade (i.e. making sure play areas, seating and dining areas are at least nine feet removed from yard edges and trees). Installing a three-foot wide bed of permethrin-treated dry wood chips (Atlantic Yellow Cedar is best) around your yard is also an effective measure against tick migration.
Applying treatments to your yard, including pesticides and cedar oil protective sprays can also effectively kill or repel ticks on contact. With pesticides, the right timing can enable you to efficiently reduce the number of ticks in your yard using smaller amounts. Organic tick control / lawn treatments like cedar oil can also kill ticks on contact and provide residual control as an insect repellent for 30-60 days without introducing harmful chemicals into the environment. It is also important to make sure that your applying these treatments expansively as only a small amount of the ticks found on your property will be located in more central areas of your lawn. Rather, the majority of ticks are often found in landscape areas where the woods meet the lawn and fields.
One final thing of note is to ensure that you remove things like old furniture, mattresses or trash from the yard as, just like leaves, woodpiles, stone walls, etc., they provide places for ticks to find shelter.
Staying aware of the different environments and locations on your property where ticks are likely to be found combined with employing tried-and-tested methods for neutralizing and treating these locations, will provide your family, friends and pets the best protection possible from ticks this fall and for the seasons to come.