If there was ever motivation to keep your place mowed and well-manicured, ticks are it. These blood-sucking creatures literally stand on the end of a blade of grass, front legs open, waiting for a victim to grab and climb aboard. And then they crawl onto you, heading to the warmest locale on your body (you can guess the areas), and feast, sharing with you whatever bacterial diseases it happens to be carrying, possibly more than one.
Ticks are not insects, and they don’t jump like fleas (who could set Olympic records in their ability to jump wide distances). Ticks are arachnids, like spiders and mites, all of which have eight legs, and they can carry more than one horrible disease that can be transferred to you in as little as four hours, although most experts say it’s more the 24-hour mark. Different types of ticks are found in different geographical areas and carry various diseases depending upon what tick it is, but the bottom line is simple: We need to deter ticks.
Mow your lawn regularly, trim all shrubbery, and cut vegetation below trees, so it’s unlikely anyone will come too close and give a tick that latch-on opportunity. Ticks like to hide in tall grass, brush, and dead leaves, and they aren’t keen on the sun, which is why a short, mowed lawn can deter ticks.
Use that hot sun to your advantage when planning in your yard. Place gathering areas like patios and children’s play areas directly out in the sun because the ticks won’t set up house there. You can use shade devices like umbrellas and shade tarps to keep the sun off the kids, but when they’re not using the area, the sun itself can help stop ticks. Trim back trees and bushes, as necessary, to maximize sun in your yard if you live in a heavy tick area.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that a three-foot-wide perimeter made of gravel or wood chips between your property and any wooded areas can help deter ticks. Avoid stacking wood or anything else that may attract rodents, as ticks feed on rodents and deer.
Watch what you plant. Avoid plants that attract deer as deer are a well-known source of ticks. One scientifically proven bush to avoid is the Japanese barberry bush. Yes, they’re hardy and pretty (although they can be invasive), but a 2010 study from the Connecticut Department of Forestry and Horticulture linked an increase in Lyme disease in the area (a disease spread by ticks) to the barberry bush. The study concluded: “Japanese barberry infestations are favorable habitat for ticks, as they provide a buffered microclimate that limits desiccation-induced tick mortality. Control of Japanese barberry reduced the number of ticks infected with B. burgdorferi by nearly 60% by reverting microclimatic conditions to those more typical of native northeastern forests.” That’s a high percentage. Many people in my own area pulled out barberry bushes years ago.
There’s some anecdotal evidence that the bush honeysuckle might attract ticks, so maybe avoid that bush, but your best bet is to choose plants that repel. Ticks don’t seem to like to be around some fragrant plants like marigolds, chrysanthemums, mint, garlic, lavender, sage, pennyroyal, chamomile, mint, and rosemary.
The CDC recommends using Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon Eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone to repel ticks on people. They also remind us that it’s wise to wear long pants when hiking, but you should periodically stop hiking and look for ticks anyway. A lint remover for clothing (the rolls with sticky tape on them) removes ticks from you and any short-haired dogs that may be with you.
Killing ticks is not as easy as you might think, but high dryer heat will kill them if any remain on your clothes. You can also flush them in the toilet.
It’s best to use a tick-remover tool, like the Tick Twister, to remove a tick that has latched on, but if you’re careful, you can also use simple tweezers. The trick is to get the entire tick, not just the body, because bacteria will continue to ooze into you if you leave the head attached. Eventually, your body will release the head, but it’s best to head to the doctors if you didn’t get the tick. Otherwise, you usually only need a doctor’s visit if you begin to develop a rash or fever after a tick bite.
Posted on August 18, 2021
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