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May 20

Ticks, what you should know

Finally, the snow is melted and like most Mainers when spring arrives, I’ve been spending as much time outside as I can- in my garden. Cleaning up last years leaves from the lawn, cleaning out perennial beds, and prepping gardens becomes marathon like in hopes to beat the hatching of Deer Ticks! Can we beat them to the punch, and even deter or eliminate the ticks from the back yard? Turns out cleaning up all yard debris is a good place to start!

Ticks lay their eggs in organic debris on the ground. One female Deer Tick can lay 3,000 eggs.

Ticks lay their eggs in organic debris on the ground, or on blades of grass. One female Deer Tick can lay 3,000 eggs.

 

There are things you can do to keep ticks at bay in your back yard!

Make sure all leaves, leaf piles, and yard debris are cleaned up and removed from the area. Ticks seek shelter under dead leaves, and other plant matter.

Ticks like to perch on tall grasses where it is easy to hitch a ride on an unsuspecting passerby, wild or human. This behavior is called “questing”. A tick will grab on to a blade of grass or a leaf with its back legs while reaching its front legs out as far as it can so it’s ready to grab on to a host, when one passes by. Therefore, it is important to keep grass mowed and trimmed.

Keep hedges and shrubs trimmed so air and sunlight can circulate and cut down on the number of hiding places for ticks. Remove brush.

A Lone Star Tick "questing" for a host.

A Lone Star Tick “questing” for a host. Lone Stars are not usually found in Maine.

 

Create a gravel path around the perimeter of your yard. Ticks do not like to hang out on, or crawl across gravel. My grandfather created a two foot wide gravel “path” around the perimeter of his yard that bordered the tree lines, and forest when ticks starting populating Maine. He claimed that it really worked. I have heard this from other sources over the years, as well.

Avoid walking in tall grasses along roadsides, and drainage ditches. Ticks like to congregate here.These areas are warm, moist, and often have lots of host traffic.

Forest trails, and hiking trails are also popular hangouts for ticks- the habitat is right. Deer, moose, and other animals will often frequent these areas, as well as human traffic. Ticks stay where the food source is the most plentiful.

Ticks crawl up after they have hitched a ride! They will grab on to shoes, pants, socks, or your bare leg. It is important to keep them from crawling up your pant leg, shorts, or up your shirt where they can attach, often unnoticed. I spray my shoes, and pant legs with a good natural tick repellent to deter them from grabbing on to a shoe lace, or the bottom of my jeans. Sometimes I will tuck my pant legs into my socks, too!

The peak months for ticks are May, and August through September. This is when eggs hatch, and ticks are most prolific. Larva and Nymphs are the most harmful to humans and other mammals as they carry disease, and are the most difficult to detect and stay attached for the longest amount of time (up to 4 days). They are so small they are hard to see, and cannot be felt when crawling on the skin.

Adult male Deer Tick, female Deer Tick, Larva, and Nymph as seen clockwise beginning in upper left corner.

Adult male Deer Tick, female Deer Tick, Larva, and Nymph as seen clockwise beginning in upper left corner.

 

It is important to check your clothing before going back inside so you can pick off any ticks that may have hitched a ride. Always check your body and scalp as well. Check dogs and cats for ticks before allowing them back into your living space. It is important to protect your pets, too. Dogs can get Lyme disease from an infected tick. There are natural products on the market that are effective for people and pets.

Spraying your shoes and pant legs with an effective natural repellent to keep ticks from latching on.

Spray your outdoor shoes and pant legs with an effective natural repellent to keep ticks from grabbing on. Bye, Bye Black Fly™ is my family favorite.

 

If you find a tick has hitched a ride on you, remove it and dispose of it immediately. If it has not attached itself to you, simply pull off of clothing and flush the tick down the toilet. Do not put in the trash, as it could easily crawl out of the bin, and into your home. Duck Tape is also an effective tool for removing roaming ticks. Once the tick is stuck to the tape, fold the tape around the tick and dispose.

If a tick has attached itself to you or a family member, use tweezers, grab the tick as close to the skin as possible, pull out, and dispose. Disinfect the site of the bite. Watch for any redness, swelling, or bulls eye rash at the site of the bite.

Lyme Disease is spread by an infected Deer Tick.  If you know ticks in your area are infected with Lyme, or you think you may have symptoms, contact your doctor’s office. If you think your dog may have contracted Lyme, call your Veterinarian.

Other information about Ticks and Lyme Disease.

MMCRI – Lyme and Other Vector-borne disease information

Top Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Ticks These Days

Tick Encounter Resource Center