It’s May and the weather up north is finally getting warm. It’s also the time of year when immature deer ticks start to feed, and they can infect people and pets with harmful diseases such as Lyme. These nymphal ticks are tiny – just the size of a poppy seed so it can be hard to spot them.
Most people get Lyme disease within 100 yards of their house in areas with woods or tall grass. Protect you and your family from ticks in your yard. Here, we share five backyard areas where people commonly encounter ticks and what you can do to stay safe in these places.
1) The Play Structure
“People put the jungle gym near the woods so it’s in the shade and away from the lawn mower,” says Bob Maurais, owner of Mainely Ticks, a pest spray company located in southern Maine. But having it close to the woods means you are in tick habitat, warns Maurais. “Move the play structure into direct sunlight at least 10 feet away from the edge of the woods or brush.” Deer ticks can’t survive the heat so they are rarely found in the middle of the lawn. For backyard protection Maurais recommends using a professional to spray the yard and applying Thermacell Tick Control Tubes in areas where sprays can’t reach.
2) The Treehouse
A treehouse by definition is usually in a tree and often in the woods. Recognize that it may be in or near prime tick habitat. If your treehouse is on the edge of the woods, you could use a pest spray to control ticks in your yard. If the treehouse is in the woods, have your kids wear permethrin treated clothing from companies like Insect Shield before going to play. You can also spray their skin with repellent such as DEET, which won’t kill ticks, but will help repel them. (Photo credit: LLoyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)
3) The Dog Run
You don’t want your dog to get too hot, so you have his dog run in the shade. But if it’s in an area with woods and leaf litter, it’s in prime tick habitat. Move your dog out of this kind of environment and protect him with regular use of a topical or systemic tick prevention product.
Veterinarian Dr. Shawna Li of Norton Animal Hospital recommends the topical product K9 Advantix. She also suggests the Seresto collar because it is good for up to eight months or the monthly use of the oral product, Nextgard. “The key,” says Li, “is to use these products all year round. Even a small area of vegetation outside that reaches 45 degrees in the winter can see the emergence of ticks. There is no safe time to stop use of a preventative, especially in New England.”
4) The Driveway
The driveway isn’t tick habitat, but if your kids play basketball or other ball games there, pay attention to the environment that surrounds it. What happens when the ball goes out of the court? If it goes into the woods, resist the temptation to go get it in shorts and t-shirt. Use a rake to reclaim the ball or leave it there and come back later in long pants, a long-sleeve shirt and boots, preferably treated with permethrin. Sawyer sells a permethrin spray that allows you to treat your own clothing.
5) Spring Cleaning
There are trees to trim and sticks to pick up. While doing chores that get your yard into shape for the summer, you may not realize you are working in parts of your yard that border woods or tall grassy areas. To help protect yourself, wear long pants and boots (ideally treated with permethrin), spray your skin with repellent, and take a hot shower after the yard work is done.
Protecting yourself from ticks takes some planning and is an important part of spring yard prep, but it doesn’t have to be hard to do. If you are looking for some easy options, tick expert Tom Mather, director of the TickEncounter Resource Center, recommends “spraying your shoes with permethrin, wearing permethrin-treated clothing, keeping an effective quick-tick-knockdown preventer on your pet, and putting tick control tubes in your yard. These are easy to do, each can be done in minutes, and they don't require set-up or clean up."