This spring is shaping up to be a heavy tick season in the northeast. Lots of moisture and a relatively warm winter can cause populations to swell. And this past fall was a banner year for acorns, meaning more mice and deer this season.
But broadcast spraying for ticks is not the answer.
Broadcast spraying for ticks and mosquitoes exposes our families to chemicals that can cause long-term harm both directly and by contaminating our drinking water. Moreover, an ongoing study by the Center for Disease Control shows that spraying does not decrease the incidence of Lyme disease. Pesticides also kill the beneficial bugs and birds, some of our biggest allies in combating nuisance bugs, and actually makes the problem worse in the long run. Instead, try these natural methods that work surprisingly well.
• Clean up leaves that collect in piles, especially near stone walls. Mice love to hide under them, and mice bring ticks. Mulch or compost these leaves.
• Mulch the leaves on your lawn into the lawn. Ticks that hide under those leaves are protected from drying out. Mulching the leaves into your lawn also feeds your lawn naturally, for free.
• When possible avoid wandering through tall grasses where ticks can hide.
• If you need to, then cover up. Tuck your pants into your socks and wear long sleeves and a hat. Wear light colored clothing to make it easier to see and remove ticks.
• If you will be in a high tick area use repellants in addition to covering up.
Herbal repellants include geraniol, an alcohol found in citronella, lemongrass, and rose oil. Herbal repellants need to be reapplied frequently, about every two hours.
Deet is more effective, but not recommended for young children. It only needs to be applied every five hours. But put it on clothing rather than skin.
Don’t use any repellants near the eyes, cuts, or mucous membranes.
• When you come inside check yourself and your children and pets thoroughly for ticks. Catching any ticks early and removing them is important.
• When you have been in areas with ticks take your clothes off and throw then right into the washer and dryer. Dry them for at least an hour on high. Washing the ticks doesn’t kill them, but drying them out does.
Lyme disease can cause a rash, but sometimes there are just flu like symptoms following a bite. Early treatment is curative, and preventative therapy is occasionally recommended when a tick is removed, so speak with your doctor if you get a tick bite.
In the meantime researchers are studying whether use of a naturally occurring fungus found in forest soils that kills ticks could be used to protect properties, and homeowners and pets. A strain of Metarhizium anisopliae, Met52, is a bio insecticide manufactured by Novozyme, is being studied to see if it is safe and effective.