Pest Alert – Ticks in the Landscape

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Although there are several ticks that parasitize people and animals, the deer tick is the most concerning. Ixodes (Deer) ticks are much smaller than common dog and cattle ticks. In their larval and nymphal stages, deer ticks are no bigger than a pinhead.


Image courtesy of NC State University

Ticks feed by inserting their mouths into the skin of a host and slowly take in blood. Deer ticks are most likely to transmit Lyme disease infection after feeding for two or more days. Therefore it is important to quickly get ticks off of your person. There is no Lyme disease vaccine available.

NC State Tick Publication

How to Reduce  Tick Exposure

  • Avoid tick habitats such as scrubby woodlands and with thick undergrowth.
  • Use DEET insecticides on your clothing to prevent tick exposure when in the woods.
  • Reduce tick abundance by removing groundcover plants from areas of activities such as walking paths, gardens and landscapes.
  • Mulch a border between lawns and surrounding woods.
  • Deer ticks are parasites that infest wildlife. Ticks fall from wild animals in yards and woodlands. Discouraging wildlife from hanging around your yard prevents ticks from being deposited in your areas of activity. Do not feed deer. Bring in bird feeders at night to discourage all the night creatures such as racoons.
  • The best way to rid your yard of ticks is to treat an outdoor pet such as a dog or cat with flea and tick treatments that contain fipronil (Frontline). The ticks get on the pet, feed on their blood that has the pesticide in it and then the ticks die. Basically the pet acts as a trap for ticks.
  • If you do not have a pet, then treating the surrounding woodland edge and landscape plants with an insecticide such as bifenthrin can help. This of course is not good for beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies so follow labelled directions and use caution. Spray early in the morning or late in the day to avoid the active hours of beneficial insects.
  • Keep lawns mowed and prune limbs from trees and shrubs that might touch people when they are in the landscape.
  • Use tick repellents as directed.
  • Perform a tick check of your entire body after every outdoor activity and remove attached ticks.
  • Learn how to identify ticks.
Treating municipal parks is a different matter since they are accessed by lots of people. Whether we are talking about private yards or parks, insecticidal perimeter sprays of the woods surrounding parks and yards can be very effective. Along with perimeter sprays, keeping grass areas mowed, creating mulch borders between woodlands and lawns, pruning trees and shrubs so that limbs do not touch people and keeping wildlife at a distance by repellents, scare tactics and fencing are all non-pesticidal tactics to reduce ticks. This is called using an integrated approach to pest management, using all tactics available including pesticides.