Is your yard attracting troublesome ticks?

Is your yard attracting troublesome ticks?

Bull’s-eye! This word commonly associated with a perfect shot at target practice is gaining equal recognition with a spine-tingling correlation to a tiny insect causing big trouble. The deer tick and wood tick (also known as the American dog tick) are similar in comparison, and are known to carry at least 11 recognized vectors of diseases. They share another common fact; in Midwest states from late March to early November, they can be lurking right at your doorstep. Experts agree that pesticides are the most effective way to control tick populations in your yard, but before you make a chemical-based decision, get to know your “enemy” and consider natural steps that may help you eliminate the need for pesticides by creating a “tick-safe zone” on your property.

Identifying ticks

Ticks are part of the arachnid family of insects. They are small, black and have a spider-like appearance. Deer ticks can be as tiny as a grain of pepper. Wood ticks are distinctly larger and have a faint design of markings on their back which deer ticks generally do not possess. Ticks cannot fly, jump or drop from above.

Lyme disease

There is currently no laboratory support showing evidence that wood ticks carry Lyme disease. In contrast, it is estimated between 7 and 20 percent of the deer tick population (in varied stages: larva, nymph (baby) and adult) carry Lyme disease. It only takes one diseased tick bite left unnoticed to leave a legacy of damage. Left untreated, it has been known to keep people bedridden for years with serious and dangerous long-term side effects including muscle, joint and organ debilitation, blindness, memory loss and even death. It can also be transmitted to pets where symptoms are found to be similar. Lyme disease occurs when a deer tick unlatches itself after feeding from a deer, bird or other wild animal, then re-attaches itself to a person or pet. The disease takes 24 to 48 hours to transmit and is often accompanied by a tell-tale “bull’s-eye” target appearing with or without symptoms of infection. Early detection is key for highly effective treatment.

Create a low tick environment

Creating a “tick-safe zone” means making the area as inhospitable for ticks as possible! Ticks don’t like areas that are hard, hot or dry. Cool, damp, wooded areas and garden spaces provide the perfect environment for ticks.

The three Cs: Clean, cover and carried

Clean tick-attracting environments by clearing away brush, branches and leaf litter. Keep wood and compost piles far away from your house. Prune trees and thick dead wood from shrubs. Restrict overgrowth of ornamental ground covers and weeds. Keep grass neatly trimmed around border areas. Find ways to increase light and decrease dampness.

Cover a 3-foot-wide by 3-inch-deep area with gravel or mulch to border surrounding woods, gardens, compost piles and lawn or play structures.

Carried by unsuspecting wildlife such as deer, birds and mice, ticks venture too close for comfort to our human homes where they can detach from wildlife and re-attach to people and pets in the yard, or enter homes brought in by pets. Detract deer from entering your “safe zone” by using deer-resistant plantings. Move bird feeders a comfortable distance from high human or pet traffic areas, especially during spring and summer when ticks are most active. Seal areas where small animals might try to penetrate or make homes, such as foundation cracks, stone retaining walls, screened porches or the area beneath your deck.

Making simple landscaping changes to create a tick-safe zone in your outdoor green space can cut down tick populations by 50 percent or more. Natural precautions can also mean less demand for pesticide applications, which reduces your chemical footprint. The fact still remains that an estimated 70 percent of people who develop Lyme disease catch it from ticks in their own yard. Winston Churchill once said, “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be … we shall never surrender.” If need should arise for defending your home despite natural efforts, seek a professional expert offering a low-toxicity pesticide treatment. Don’t forget a daily “tick check” for each family member and pet. A little prevention and precaution is your best “tick”et for defending a springtime tick attack!