While spring brings sunshine and warm weather, it also brings ticks. When the weather heats up and outdoor activity increases, so do tick bites. Ticks carry and transmit dangerous diseases, like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Your risk of being bitten by an infected tick is highest in the spring and summer. This means it is crucial to know where you can expect to encounter ticks, how to protect yourself from tick bites, and how to control ticks in your yard.
Tick Bite and Disease Prevention
Ticks become infected with diseases when they feed on diseased hosts, and the tick can then pass the disease on to other hosts. Research has shown that a tick usually need to remain attached to the host for 24 hours or more to pass on a disease, so it’s important to detect and remove ticks as soon as possible.
To protect yourself from tick bites:
- Know where to find ticks. Ticks do not fly or jump. Instead, they hang out on shrubs, bushes, and tall grass waiting for hosts to brush against the vegetation so the tick can hitch a ride. Wooded areas are often dense with ticks.
- When spending time in any areas where ticks might be present, wear long pants and long sleeves, if possible, and tuck your pant cuffs into your socks to prevent ticks from clinging to and getting under pants or socks. Wearing light colored clothing can help you spot ticks more easily.
- Stay close to the center of paths and hiking trails to avoid brushing against foliage containing ticks.
- Repellents are great for tick protection. DEET, the most powerful repellent, works well against ticks, but in high concentrations of DEET can irritate skin and it cannot be used on young children. Another option is to purchase repellents that can be applied directly to clothing and last through a few washings. Protecting clothes and exposed skin will help create a tick barrier.
- Tick checks are the most important thing you can do after spending time in brushy or wooded areas. Since tick bites are rarely felt, it can be hard to know if ticks have latched onto your skin. Make sure to do a thorough visual exam, particularly on underarms, ears, waist, behind knees, scalp and hair, and between legs.
- If you do find an embedded tick on your body, use tweezers to grasp it tightly by the head and pull it straight out. The head of the tick has the potential to pass on disease, so make sure to remove it with the rest of the tick.
Tick Control: Creating a Tick-Free Zone
Protecting yourself from ticks when hiking or camping is one thing, but thinking of ticks when relaxing in your backyard is another.
You don’t have to douse yourself in repellent every time you want to spend time outdoors. Instead, managing your yard and landscape to make the environment unsuitable for ticks can control populations and discourage ticks in your area.
To create a tick-free zone in your yard:
- Keep bushes, shrubs, and tall grasses away from patios, play areas, and any other frequently used areas in your yard since this is where ticks wait for hosts.
- Regularly clean up any lawn debris, such as piles of brush and leaves, since they can provide shelter for potential tick host animals. The host animal passes the disease to the ticks, so keeping wildlife out of your yard will cut back on infected ticks.
- Keep grass mowed and trimmed short.
- Pay special attention to the edges of your property, especially if you live near wooded or highly vegetated areas. Trim plants to prevent them from hanging over into your property.
- Alternatively, you can create a barrier with woodchips, gravel, or other materials on the edges of your property.
- Try to keep cats and dogs out of wooded areas. Always check pets for ticks every day if they spend time outdoors, and consider using a tick treatment especially in spring and summer.
- Deer are common carriers of diseases that infect ticks, so limiting and controlling deer can also help reduce ticks in your area.
Tick Control Products
Using chemical treatments in combination with landscape management can make your property virtually tick free, as well as cutting back on other bothersome insects.
There are a wealth of professional grade tick control products available to homeowners, from traditional barrier sprays to long lasting repellents, to allow you to find the product you need.