Approximately 1,000 cases of tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease are diagnosed in Minnesota every year. Certainly, this is cause for concern. The tips here will help you brush up on the best ways to keep ticks off your family and out of your home.
What conditions do ticks like?
Places that stay cool and damp are favorite hideouts. Think shady wooded areas, swamps, tall grasses, shrubs, and leaf litter. If your home borders a spot with these conditions, consider treating your yard.
Ticks will also be found along trails used by host animals like rodents and deer. Even if you’re careful to check pets and people for ticks, wild animals can carry bloodsucking ticks into your yard. Frequently, young developing ticks attach to home invaders such as mice.
Place tick tubes filled with treated cotton balls in areas frequented by mice to prevent ticks from hitchhiking into your property—and home. Pest control experts can place tick tubes. Or, they can be purchased over the counter for those who prefer the DIY approach. See our past article for more information.
Spring is when tick activity peaks because that’s when the eggs laid in the fall hatch and nymphs emerge.
How do tick bites transmit disease?
Ticks feed on their hosts by piercing the skin and inserting a tube to suck blood. Some ticks also have a chemical in their saliva that numbs the host. As a result, they can go unnoticed allowing them to feed longer. A tick may pick up pathogens from an infected host and then spread the infection when it bites the next animal. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more about which ticks carry disease and where they are found. See which ticks are found in your region.
Ticks in the snow?!
Although it hardly seems fair, deer ticks can come out when temperatures reach 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above. They’ll even come out while there’s still snow on the ground. Some ticks can survive and stay active in winter by latching onto hosts or staying buried in leaf litter or burrows.
How to Avoid Ticks When you’re Enjoying the Outdoors:
- Above all, the best way to prevent a tick bite is by avoiding contact with ticks.
- Avoid tick-friendly conditions in your landscape, and place tick tubes in areas frequented by mice.
- Wear long clothing.
- When hiking, stay out of areas with brush or tall grasses. Walk in the center of groomed trails.
- Apply tick repellant.
- The CDC recommends 20% DEET, picaridin, or IR3535.
- Treat outdoor clothing and gear with Permethrin.
- This will repel ticks, and kill them on contact.
- Don’t forget to treat tents and backpacks, because they can carry ticks.
- Reapply treatments according to package instructions. Many last for 3-5 washings. Pretreated clothing may provide longer protection.
- Check for ticks on your body, and your pets.
- When checking kids, be sure to focus on areas where ticks could hide, like under the arms, the groin, ears, and waistline, and hair.
- Use a tick prevention product on dogs. Talk to your vet before using any product on cats, because they are extremely sensitive to chemicals.
Visit these resources for advice on choosing the best repellents to protect your family and your pets:
- US EPA “Find the Repellent that is Right for You” https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “Preventing Ticks on Your Pets”: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_pets.html