Everyone is outside these days, taking long walks in the park or on hiking trails and creating new spaces in their own backyards. It’s amazing to see people embracing the outdoors! When participating in outdoor activities, even in and around your home, it is important to be aware of ticks and the preventative measures you can take to help minimize the risk of exposure to tick-associated illnesses including Lyme disease.
Ticks have become a major issue with increasing populations and species that attack people, pets, and livestock. You might be surprised to learn that most cases of Lyme disease, one of the most common and well-known tick-borne diseases, are picked up from bites that occur during activities around the home. These pests are pervasive and easy to find in home landscapes.
Management of tick populations can be a formidable task as ticks are notoriously resilient. So how can you reduce your exposure to ticks? Unfortunately, there is no single treatment that will eliminate tick exposure on its own. However, a multi-faceted approach can help protect you and your property.
First and foremost is to protect yourself by following health department tick safety guidelines. Make sure to use a repellent spray, cover up skin and check yourself, others and pets when you come inside.
In your yard, an IPM (integrated pest management) approach that incorporates both cultural and chemical treatments will have the most success.
Cultural practices are practices that make it harder for pests (like ticks) to become established in a landscape. One good example is to create a tick barrier of wood chips approximately three feet wide around lawn edges. This mulched area is a less hospitable environment for ticks and serves as a physical barrier between more wooded areas and lawn. You should also mow the lawn frequently, keep weeds at bay and rake up and remove piles of leaves. While leaving dead leaves can be beneficial to your lawn, if you live in an area densely populated with ticks, removing them is a good course of action to help eliminate tick habitats.
Another consideration is the relationship of ticks and their hosts including deer and mice. It’s important to discourage deer from visiting your property with fencing and repellents and keep firewood in a dry area to deter mice. Keeping their hosts out of your yard will help keep ticks out too!
Finally, pesticide treatments targeting tick habitats, including wooded areas around the home and the borders along woodland edges, ornamental plantings, and stone walls can suppress populations. Timing, proper application and frequency of these treatments is important for best results.
While managing tick populations and reducing exposure is not a one-step process, by taking a few precautions, you can substantially reduce the risk of Lyme disease and other tick-associated illnesses. So don’t let ticks stop you from enjoying the great outdoors! Be aware and prepared and keep enjoying beautiful outdoor spaces.