Safeguard Your Yard Against Ticks…Safely
This month, we’ve been sharing a series of blogs about safe and effective ways to protect you and your family from ticks. Our initial blog, The 101 on DIY Tick Repellents Using Essential Oils, provides information on various deterrent volatile oils. Today’s blog will address non-toxic ways to combat tick activity in your yard.
The snow had hardly melted when I started noticing blacklegged ticks in and around our yard this year. The prediction that 2017 would be a prolific year for them was being validated right before me. As the mother of a toddler who loves the outdoors, I knew I had to address the situation. Wei and Gregor, who are the driving force behind Arogya Holistic Healing, were having a similar experience with tick activity at their home in Newtown, Connecticut. All of us at Arogya share a deep concern for the environment. In a perfect world, we would all adapt a live and let live attitude towards ticks. The growing threat of acquiring tick borne illness such as Lyme Disease, however, has forced us into action. This blog is a result of the success we have been experiencing using a number of eco-conscious tick control methods.
Cedar Oil Based Pest Control
Prior to using an organic cedar oil based spray on our lawn, I was skeptical about whether it really worked. I’m pleased to report that we saw results right away. I found only one tick in our yard (which is in a highly wooded area and next to wetlands) from the time we sprayed in early April until just before our second application in mid-June. This subsequent application immediately targeted the increased nymph deer tick activity that generally occurs around this time. Wei and Gregor were equally pleased after applying it to their yard. While you can purchase cedar oil lawn sprays on the internet (such as Wondercide, Cedarcide, and Tick Killz) and do it yourself, a trained professional will be more knowledgeable about how much product to use, exactly where to spray, and how to time applications so they correlate with peak tick activity. I used a small father-son company called Tim’s Pest Control that is based in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Wei and Gregor were very happy with NaturaLawn of America, a national company, who works with Tick Ranger.
In addition to being non-toxic to your family and pets, organic cedar oil sprays are far less harmful to beneficial insects like bees and butterflies than chemical pesticides. That being said, be sure not to spray directly onto pollinating insects or onto the flowers where they are foraging. As cedar oil spray is biodegradable, it does not leave behind toxic residue on plants, which further minimizes the risk of harm to other insects and animals after being applied.
Select Tick Control System (TCS)
An additional step that I took in an effort to curb the tick population in our yard this year was the installation of Select TCS Tick Control System bait boxes. This newer tick control method has been scientifically proven to significantly reduce tick populations over a two-year period by targeting the ticks living on and attempting to attach onto mice and other small rodents. As mentioned in our previous article on DIY tick repellents, the white footed mouse is a major culprit in the spread of Lyme Disease. Just to give a sense of the effectiveness of this system, a recent study published in March of 2017 in the Journal of Medical Entomology found a 97% reduction of the tick population after four nine-week deployments of the TCS system over a two-year period.
In a nut shell, here’s how Select TCS bait boxes work: In addition to containing bait, each of these sturdy, childproof boxes has an applicator wick treated with a small amount of the insecticide fipronil. This is the same chemical used in pet tick prevention products such as frontline, only at a much lower dose. Every time a rodent enters the box for bait, they are brushed with a trace amount of fipronil. This single dose not only kills whatever ticks are on the mouse, but also prevents new ticks from attaching for up to 40 days. Basically, the rodents become moving tick traps while not being harmed themselves. In addition, studies have found that predatory animals who might eat these treated mice (like your cat) are not negatively affected as such a small amount of insecticide is required. You might be thinking, “Won’t these bait boxes attract a bunch of new rodents on my property?” Fortunately, this is not the case as rodents are territorial.
To use this system, you must call a registered tick control company in your state. Connecticut Tick Control is the provider for Connecticut. You can find a list of registered companies, as well as much more about this method, in the Select TCS online brochure. A trained professional will visit your property and assess how many boxes you will need, as well as where to put them. You’ll be left with a healthy amount of literature on the subject and then it’s up to you about whether or not to proceed with the treatment. The downside of these boxes is that they are not inexpensive. Each box is $50 and the average home will require at least 5 or 6 boxes per installation, of which there are two per year. We decided it was worth the cost and have been very pleased with the results we’ve seen thus far. As mentioned, the system is intended to be more long-term, so I imagine we will see an even greater reduction in the tick population next year. Hopefully, the cost will come down in the near future, too!
Lawn Maintenance and Landscaping
You can also combat tick activity in your lawn through various lawn maintenance and landscaping techniques. First and foremost, be sure to keep your grass short!
Here are a few additional ways to make your yard less habitable to ticks. I’m gradually trying to do more of them at our home.
- Remove leaf litter
- Leaf litter is an ideal environment for adult deer ticks to lay eggs. I was shocked when I learned that one adult tick can lay up to 3,000 eggs! If you don’t have a leaf blower, consider borrowing one from a neighbor/friend or hire a landscaping service.
- Minimize areas of groundcover plants such as pachysandra
- These stretches of vegetation provide shelter for small rodents, therefore increasing the likelihood of tick activity.
- Increase solar exposure throughout your lawn
- Areas of increased sun and decreased humidity have been found to be inhospitable to ticks.
- Install deer fencing
- This, of course, will help keep deer out of your yard. Though deer are not responsible for infecting ticks with Lyme Disease, they help them move from place to place.
- Create a 3-foot woodchip, mulch, or decorative stone barrier between woodlands and your yard.
- The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station recommends creating a 3-foot or wider barrier between your lawn and woodlands to help deter ticks from moving beyond the forest. According to this research station, the majority of ticks found in grass are within three yards of wooded areas. This stretch of wood or stone covering will also discourage weed growth and help retain soil moisture in your yard. You can find some additional landscaping tips and more in this Agricultural Experiment Station’s booklet.
- Plant vegetation that repels ticks and deer. There are a number of plants that have been found to be unappealing to ticks (in part due to the fact that many are deterrent to deer and other woodland animals). The majority of these plants are easy to maintain perennials, so a little bit of gardening one year will go a long way! I’ve noted which are annuals. Another perk is that quite a few of these herbaceous species can be used in your kitchen and teapot.
- Catmint (This is a more ornamental cousin of catnip. My cats when I bring them a sprig of this stuff!)
- Chamomile (Annual)
- Garlic (Technically a perennial but often grown as annual in order to harvest the bulb)
- Chrysanthemums (Hardy mums are perennials, other varieties are annuals)
- Mexican Marigolds
- Fleabane Daisy (annual or perennial, depending on variety
We hope this blog might help your yard become a more relaxing, safer, and enjoyable place year-round!
by Sophie Slater