It’s heating up out there – and we don’t mean the weather! Tick season is in full-swing, and so is the risk of tick-borne illness.
According to a report from the CDC, the number of illnesses transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas has tripled in the US; in fact, the number of tick-borne diseases has more than doubled since 2004.
Lyme disease is an infection, caused by bacteria spread through the bite of an infected black-legged tick. These ticks are particularly common in the Northeast and surrounding the Great Lakes. These pests may be are approximately the same size as a sesame seed - but don’t let their size fool you! These tiny pests can be extremely detrimental to your pets and your family.
Left untreated, Lyme Disease can cause an array of flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, headache, fatigue, joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes.
Perhaps the most recognizable sign of Lyme is a rash that takes the shape of a bullseye – but not everyone with Lyme Disease will experience this. Without treatment, Lyme disease symptoms can become more severe, leading to shooting pains in your hands and feet, nerve pain, irregular heartbeat, facial palsy, or even inflammation of your spinal cord.
Use an Effective Bug Spray
If you're spending time in heavily wooded areas where ticks like to hide or marshy areas where mosquitoes breed, it's important to be prepared with a powerful bug spray. The most effective bug sprays include DEET or Picaridin.
Do you know what makes a bug spray effective?
- DEET was developed by the Army to interfere with mosquito’s ability to detect chemicals such as lactic acid and carbon dioxide. It doesn't kill mosquitoes, but it is one of the most effective ways to keep them at bay.
- Picaridin is an active ingredient that was developed as an alternative to DEET. It evaporates on your skin more slowly than other chemical formulas, so it can repel mosquitoes and other pests for longer; but keep in mind that just because a product contains picaridin doesn't inherently mean it will be effective. Repellents that are consistently ranked highly are usually sprays that contain 15-20% picaridin.
- Natural remedies can be effective, but usually don't last very long. If you're set on using natural remedies, you'll need to reapply them often. Botanical repellents with PMD (a synthetic form of oil of lemon eucalyptus) are your best bet.
Preventing Lyme Disease Starts with Preventing Tick Populations
The first step in keeping ticks from passing harmful tick-borne illnesses on to your family and pets is to keep ticks from infesting your yard this summer. There are a number of things you can do to make your home less attractive to tick populations, including:
Be the Big Bad Wolf
That’s right. Just like in The Three Little Pigs, you have to huff, puff, and blow their house down. Wood piles and bird feeders are prime real estate for ticks to hangout. Make sure to move these tick havens as far away from your house as possible, and elevated off the ground. The elevation will dehydrate ticks on the ground, keeping them from reaching the shady protection of the woodpile or bird feeder, and will also prevent mice and other rodents from inhabiting those regions on the ground. This is crucial because mice are the primary transmitter of Lyme disease-causing bacteria.
Cut Grass and Shrubs
Ticks like to hang out in tall and overgrown grasses and shrubs. Like most other insects, they love to hide in the shade until they can pounce onto you. Cleaning up shrubs and keeping grassy areas neat will allow more sunlight into the yard, deterring ticks.
Dead leaves left on the ground to decompose are referred to as “leaf litter”. Ticks like to seek shelter under these leaves because it offers great protection and it serves as a damp, cool refuge in your yard. Pick up any leaves left on your yard, to make sure no ticks surprise attack you while you’re enjoying the outside.
Build a Barrier
Build a 3 ft. wide barrier from mulch, gravel, or woodchip between your yard and the woods. Ticks have a difficult time crossing this barrier because of their likelihood of drying out on the arid boundary. The barrier also serves as a reminder to you and your family about the precautious needed for staying tick-free beyond that point.
Get Help from a Pest Professional
If you've taken steps to keep ticks away from your yard and you're looking for even more effective protection, it's time to give the tick control specialists in your area a call! A professional will have the training and education required to safely apply tick control formulas in your landscape without putting your family in harm's way and to eliminate larvae, nymphs, and adult tick populations around your home.