Vocabulary: Empower yourself by knowing the language of the problem.
Vector: a carrier of a disease, like a tick or mosquito
Reservoir: animal population that is the source of the disease
Permethrin: toxic to cats: synthetic pyrethrin, http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/PermGen.html
Pyrethrin: toxic to cats: natural insecticide from flowers, http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/pyrethrins.pdf
Borax: a mineral with the toxicity of table salt, https://www.sciencelab.com/msds.php?msdsId=9924967
Sevin: insecticide, kills bees, can damage you, http://www.cdms.net/ldat/mp5er003.pdf
Since I was positive for Lyme’s disease in 2009, and positive for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in 2015, and presumably in 2016, and since I never saw a bull’s eye rash, and since many ticks are really difficult to see, two things became apparent:
- I was at high risk for exposure
- I was ineffective at blocking that exposure
I needed to change things. I need to prevent further exposure.
That’s not easy to do. In early June, this year, Dave went out to repair the grape arbor. He worked for several hours, replacing and repairing the arbor wood. When he returned inside, we found and removed 23 ticks of at least two types. The grape arbor is shady, and allows ticks to drop down upon you if you go under it.
I need to reduce ticks on my property. I need to repel ticks from my person. I need to repel ticks from my pets. Oh yeah, and from Dave! (sorry Dave)
Today, I will focus what I can do to discourage ticks on the property.
Have an overall plan:
Landscape grooming: Ticks like vegetation, shade and humidity. Reduce these conditions where possible
- Rake leaves, grass and pine straw from the lawn areas, although pine straw or mulch can make a barrier between a woodsy, or shrubby margin, and the lawn, and is easier to spray or treat, should you decide to do that. A farmer friend says that pine trees/straw are particularly attractive to ticks.
- Drain wet grassy areas
- Cut tall grass and vegetation which attracts deer and other animals, and harbors ticks
- Get rid of stands of ornamental grass (see rodents, below)
- Cut out undergrowth beneath trees and shrubs, facilitating ventilation. I used this: http://www.billygoat.com/Product-Categories/Detail/bc24-series-outback-brushcutter
- And this: https://www.amazon.com/Red-Dragon-VT-2-23-000-BTU/dp/B00004Z2FP
I admit it, we had fun. Hot, sweaty fun.
Critter control: Ticks are vectors for rickettsial, and other diseases, however, the reservoirs are often other kinds of animals, like deer and mice, birds and even lizards. Discourage these animals near your house, and other work spaces.
- Cut vegetation to discourage nesting
- Trap mice and rats and destroy. If you remove them, they will return. I used this: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Victor-Electronic-Rat-Trap-M240/100400789
- Another reason to get rid of ornamental grass, or at least keep it well away from the house and work areas. The stolens of grass stabilize the earth and make it harder for other animals to catch rodents nesting amongst them. Tall grass, and particularly grass stands, are preferred habitat for many rodents. My husky would frequently dive into a pampas grass stand, as we passed, and come out with a rat in her mouth. When I worked with bears at the National Zoo, the rats moved under cover of long ‘meadow’ grass to get the bear food. Right after feeding, I could stand at the top of the exhibit, and watch the grass waving like the swells of the sea, moved by the rats in transit.
Avoid these conditions when possible. Do you see a theme here? Groom vegetation.
Go after the ticks: When we started really grooming our property, we were exposed to lots of ticks. We found we got larger ticks from the grassy meadow areas, and tiny ticks from working under the grape vines in the arbor.
- Know the adversary: http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/geographic_distribution.html
- Plant ‘tick tubes’, especially in the early spring and late summer: http://www.tickencounter.org/prevention/mouse_targeted_devices
- Nurture tick predators: http://www.inquisitr.com/2106782/opossums-the-unsung-heroes-against-lyme-disease-and-other-tick-borne-diseases/
- Carefully use repellants: Barriers and zones (see plans above). Lawns generally don’t need repellent. Ticks don’t like to be there. Barrier zones – the interface between the shrubs and woods and the lawn, may need it. Mulch and pine straw are easier to spray than shrubs, and make it harder for the ticks to travel from vegetation to lawn.
- Borax does not work on ticks: http://www.dodsonbros.com/blog/borax-and-boric-acid-for-insect-control-228.html
- Essential oils: http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/prev/natural-repellents.html
- Insecticides: permethrins and pyrethrins (careful, toxic to cats!): http://www.ct.gov/caes/lib/caes/documents/publications/fact_sheets/ManagingTicks05.pdf
- Sevin: NOT first choice. Not particularly effective with ticks. Very toxic to bees, if you use it, use liquid spray only, applied in the late afternoon/evening, when the bees are back home, and avoid flowers.
Next: Repelling ticks from your person.