Lyme disease and tick management, whether you realize it or not, have a lot to do with landscaping. Landscape management is the primary component to a successful tick management plan. And, whether you realize it or not, if you live in the North Eastern part of the United States, you likely need a plan. Here’s why…
If you live in the North Eastern part of the United States, then it is very likely that you are familiar with ticks and the bacterial infection called Lyme disease that they carry. You yourself may have been infected! If you are unfamiliar with this disease, in short, it is a tick-transmitted disease (which originates from rodents) that, although rarely fatal, can cause severe arthritis, neurological problems, and cardiovascular symptoms. If left untreated or misdiagnosed, some of these symptoms can become permanent. Lyme disease also affects some animals (dogs, cats, horses, etc.) in similar ways.
Ticks are simply a wildlife parasite. Ticks are classified as arthropods, not insects (this is important to know when considering the use of chemical pesticides). Generally, the type of ticks that generate Lyme disease are deer ticks; although, these ticks are more than willing to feed on a variety of hosts, including humans. Because residential and recreational areas tend to abut and encroach into the habitat of wildlife, people are quite often at risk of being bit by a tick and, thus, risk being infected by Lyme disease. Nonetheless, there is still not a single completely successful method to reduce the tick populations. So, what can you do to protect you, your family, and your pets?
As with any problem, before you take action, you must determine the scope of the problem. To determine if your property is infested with deer ticks, think about whether or not you or any of your family members have seen or been bit by a tick. If not, that is great; however, that may not mean that you don’t have a tick problem. The most common locations for deer ticks are in wood lots, wood buffers between yards, protected grassy or leafy areas (deer bedding), overgrown fruit tree orchards (deer feeding areas) and along edge habitats (specifically in unmaintained borders). Look at your property and determine if you have these types of landscapes. The highest risk areas (for Lyme disease) are around rock walls, wood piles, rotten stumps or logs, brush piles, and compost piles. These are high-risk areas due to the fact that Lyme disease originates from rodents and rodents live in these environments. Ticks in these high-risk areas will likely be infected with Lyme disease.
The best approach to tick management is an integrated one. Integrated tick management (ITM) simply means using a variety of approaches in conjunction with each other with the purpose of reducing risk of infection by ticks rather than eliminating the pest altogether. The following are the key components of a successful ITM strategy.
Landscape management is simply vegetative modifications to reduce the amount of tick host habitat. The idea is to make it less suitable for tick survival and less inviting to tick hosts. Landscape management practices include:
- Keep grass mowed,
- Remove leaf litter, brush, and weeds at the edge of the lawn,
- Restrict the use of ground cover in areas frequented by family and pets,
- Remove brush and leaves around stonewalls and wood piles,
- Discourage rodent activity by keeping stonewalls tidy and by sealing up small openings around the home,
- Trim tree branches and shrubs around the lawn edge to let in more sunlight,
- Adopt hard-scape landscaping techniques with gravel pathways and mulches. Create a 3-foot or wider wood chip, mulch, or gravel border between lawn and woods or stonewalls,
- Consider areas with decking, tile, gravel, and border or container plantings in areas by the house or frequently traveled, and
- Widen woodland trails.
Targeted Chemical Control
Targeted chemical control can help with the reduction of deer tick hosts as well. This method is a great way to complement your landscape management efforts. Use the least-toxic pesticide you can find as a barrier treatment to deter white-footed mice, chipmunks, and/or deer.
Cultural practice simply means that you should be smart about how you enjoy the outdoors. Modify your activities and practices in ways that reduce tick exposure. Some examples include:
- Move firewood piles and bird feeders away from the house,
- Manage pet activity, keep dogs and cats out of the woods to reduce ticks being brought back into the home, and
- Move children’s swing sets and sand boxes away from the woodland edge and place them on a wood whip or mulch type foundation.
These cultural practices are only a few ways by which you can prevent tick exposure. The idea is to use common sense and reduce and/or eliminate high risk areas as much as possible.
If a high risk area cannot be eliminated or avoided, then protect yourself. Whenever you enter tick habitat, you are at risk of being bit by infected ticks. Use repellents, protective dress, and daily tick checks to eliminate this risk.
The idea behind integrated tick management is to eliminate tick hosts, which will, in turn, significantly reduce your tick population and your risk of being infected by Lyme disease. As you can see, the landscape management component of ITM is the largest part. Landscape management is essential to keeping your property low-risk. Combining landscape management with the other parts of ITM should be effective in keeping you, your family, and your pets safe from Lyme disease.
If you need help with your landscape management and tick management efforts, contact us today! We would be happy to help!
This blog is a compilation of information from the following publications:
Check out this website to learn more about tick testing!