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Posted Monday, May 8, 2006
Pittsboro, NC - Tick, tick, tick. Remember the crocodile that swallowed the clock? Tick, tick, tick. This is not that tick. This is about an 8-legged arachnid that lies in wait (like a crocodile?). But instead of open jaws to devour you, this one has tiny piercing mouthparts that it injects into you.
It may just make you itch. But ticks are also known to transmit a number of serious diseases. So we need to be wary. But let me be clear about this from the start: there is no magic potion, no silver bullet that you can “put down” or “put out” that will remove the problem.
What follows is a group of strategies. You may have found T-H-E one that works for you. But few things work the same in all circumstances. You may have tried a lot of what follows with poor results. Like I said, no silver bullets. Keep trying.
There are insecticides that may reduce the number of ticks in the treated area for a period of time. Those pesticides will not last forever or even for very long. Days to weeks in most cases. Pesticides are often a short-term solution to a long-term problem. The short-term solution may give you time to apply some more long-term strategies. And reducing the population in the spring rather than several generations later, may have more impact.
The most effective long-term strategy for dealing with ticks is usually going to be habitat management. Unfortunately there are a lot of habitat issues beyond our control. Even if you could eliminate every tick in a defined area (and for a very small area, perhaps you can), if wild animals move into that area, then you will probably have ticks reintroduced promptly. Wild animals would include many of the nuisance animals I get calls about – deer, rabbits, voles, squirrels, mice, rats, ‘possums, raccoons – as well as domestic animals such as dogs and cats.
What can you do? Make the area less attractive to wildlife, many of which hesitate to cross large open areas. Keep weeds and grass mowed close. Reduce hiding places for the animals listed above. Remove leaves and litter that blow into corners around outdoor tables, chairs, patios, etc.
Avoid brushing against vegetation. If you walk along trails in the woods, stick to wide trails that are maintained.
Introduce guinea fowl or chickens into your home menagerie. I have no experience here but apparently these birds eat a lot of ticks. In some cases they may also deter other wildlife from entering the area. Be aware that guineas can act aggressive, may stray from home, and may not create good neighborly relations.
If you use a pesticide, do it well. Uniform application is important. Liquid formulations should cover vegetation thoroughly and penetrate to the soil surface. Granular products should be applied before a rain or watered in. Follow label directions to keep children and pets away. Don't apply more than specified on the label.
Protect yourself. Once you’ve tried whatever is practical and still have problems, remember that as someone said recently, “People who choose to live in a rural setting should know how to deal with things.” OK, you may not live in a rural setting; but if you have any of the animals already mentioned moving through your yard, you may need to act rural.
Light colored clothing will make it easier to see ticks when they are crawling up your legs. If pants legs are tucked into boots or socks, then the crawler is at least directed out rather than under. They don’t always follow directions. A length of plastic packing tape or duct tape can be used to easily pick up small crawling ticks. Wrap a piece sticky side out around your hand and stick it to itself. Then you have a sticky trap for picking ticks.
Repellents: DEET based products have track record of being able to protect against biting pests. Permanone (permethrin) will also provide some protection. These products may have their own hazards. You have to weigh the hazard of the product against the hazard of the tick bite. Use a product with 10 – 30% active ingredient.
Apply only to exposed skin and/or clothing. Do not apply under clothing. Keep it away from eyes and synthetic materials. Wash it off when you come inside. When using DEET with children, follow careful guidelines on age of children and concentrations to use.
For more information on repellents, see
Take care of your pets. They can bring ticks into your closed perimeter. They can also get diseases. Consult with your veterinarian.
What about citronella, brewers yeast, vitamin B1, repellent plants, and electronic repellers? Generally, while some individuals report success, researchers have not been able to demonstrate that any of these are consistently effective in replicated trials. If it works for you, I try not to argue with success. If it doesn't, I told you so.
For more on ticks and tick borne diseases, see the following websites:
There are some serious possibilities. And you have to take care of yourself.
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