To prevent tick bites, individuals walking in tick-infested areas should avoid sitting on the ground or on logs in areas with brush and long grass. Repellents containing N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) can be applied directly to the skin, while those containing the pyrethroid insecticide permethrin are generally applied to socks and trouser legs (but not labeled in the U.S. for application to skin). However, total protection, especially for extended periods, is difficult to maintain with these repellents. When people are in areas where ticks are numerous, they should always examine their bodies closely at least twice each day, and remove any ticks that may be present.
Some non-chemical techniques that help reduce tick problems include keeping grass and weeds cut short in tick-infested areas. This increases chances of tick desiccation during the summer, discourages alternative hosts (such as rodents), and lessens the amount of plant material that may need acaricide treatment. Removal of clutter and debris on the property will also discourage rodent populations, as will removal of any nesting material left by rodents. Removal of bird nests in and around structures will reduce the number of ticks, especially of soft ticks. Fenced-in yards and leash laws prevent dogs from straying into tick-infested fields, woods and parks.
However, where deer populations are high in urban or suburban areas, populations of the deer ticks that are vectors of Lyme disease are also likely to be high in yards, parks, schoolyards, cemeteries and golf courses, as well as around ponds and along streams. To reduce ticks, you can screen and seal house entry points used by other tick hosts such as squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks and bats. You can also seal cracks and crevices where ticks can hide both inside and on the exterior of the home.
Regular examination and grooming of pets (especially dogs), and frequent cleaning of their bedding is strongly recommended. There are several residual pyrethroids labeled for tick control. Not all materials or all formulations will be labeled for indoor use; product labels should be consulted. Some dust formulations of these residual materials or of silica aerogelare also available and may be preferred in some situations that are difficult to treat with a spray.
Non-residual treatments can be useful to supplement residual treatments. They can be effective either by direct contact or when sub-lethal dosages stimulate ticks to move about so that they will be more likely to encounter surfaces that have been treated with residual materials. Infested pet bedding should be carefully washed or disposed of. The area around the pet bed should be carefully and thoroughly treated.
All tick life stages can usually be found in cracks and crevices in the infested structures. Because ticks can survive without feeding for such long periods and because the period that they remain concealed may be longer than the residual life of the acaricide chemicals applied, the effectiveness of these treatments may depend on the thoroughness of application. We thoroughly treat all crevices where ticks are harboring to ensure the acaricide reaches places where ticks are concealed.
Other areas needing particular attention include baseboards, doorway and window casings, and the edges of carpets. In addition, during warm weather, outdoor areas frequented by the dog or wildlife that may be tick hosts should be treated. This includes the yard, doghouse and crawlspace. Because turf, shrubs and other vegetation will require treatment, use spray formulations labeled for use on such plants to avoid plant damage. When treating the yard, be sure to treat all fences, siding, plant material, etc., to several feet above the ground.
To effectively manage ticks on your property, it is important to take several steps. First, stop occasionally to check the cloth for ticks (some may be very small), and we will note infested locations on a diagram of the property to guide acaricide treatments and any follow-up sampling. Such records will also aid longer-term tick management programs for customers who want this service, and they can assist design and communication of the need for other non-chemical tick management methods (e.g., mowing grass, brush removal, deer fencing, etc.).
Second, areas where ticks are found should be thoroughly treated with one of the already-mentioned acaricides. Shrubbery up to a height of 3 ft. should be sprayed. If possible, grass and weeds should be kept mowed in wooded areas, vacant lots, and fields. These areas may require treatment with an acaricide. Finally, yards bordering these areas may also require frequent acaricide treatment, especially along edges adjacent to wooded or brushy areas.
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