The warm, moist weather this spring has allowed ticks to lay more eggs than usual. While ticks are active year round in temperatures above freezing, the thick of the season for them is August-October and even into November. The City of Dublin typically does not spray for ticks, as the chemicals that would affect them would kill most other insects/arthropods as well. The best way to keep these pests away is proper management of yards and clothing.
In The Yard
Ticks need moisture and do not do well in dry conditions. Keeping leaves raked up and grass cut short, and trimming back branches so more sun can penetrate the yard will help keep the environment dry, which will also reduce mosquito populations.
Using a permethrin-based repellent is the best option for commercial product insecticide. Permethrin is low toxicity to humans and pets, and even babies. Treating clothing with permethrins is a huge help if you spend a lot of time outdoors. If nothing else, spraying a permethrin-based spray on your shoes will repel ticks at a rate of 75%. Some of the best and mild sprays are the equine sprays such as “Bronco” and “Flysect with Lanolin.” These range from about $10-15.
Anything to reduce rodent populations will help reduce ticks as they require small rodents to begin their life cycle. Another option, especially if you have a heavily wooded yard, is to place permethrin-treated nest tubes around the yard. The average yard in Dublin would probably need about 10 tubes. You can make these easily by using 6” long pieces of plastic tubing that is ¾”-1” diameter. Stuff the tubing with permethrin treated cotton, or cotton balls dusted or sprayed and allowed to dry. The trick is to keep the cotton as dry as possible. Hide tubes under shrubs or in gardens and along edge of wooded areas. Mice will pull the cotton for bedding and the chemical will get on the rodents and in their nests and kill the larval stage ticks that bite the rodents and start the cycle.
You can also contact a private insect control company. They use some of the same chemicals used to spray for mosquitoes, which can help reduce tick populations. Since late summer and fall are the times of year most mosquito spraying is done, fall is the time of year to hire a private company.
On Your Clothes
Always check thoroughly for ticks on clothing, skin and hair after being outside. If a tick has bitten into person or pet skin, use tweezers to gently remove. They must latch on for 24-36 hours before they can transmit any diseases.
If you find small larval ticks or adults crawling on skin or clothes after being outside, take a strip of duct tape and sweep them up on the tape. You can also purchase a tick key for about $6.
One of the surest ways to eliminate ticks on clothing is, after working/hiking/outdoor pursuits, place clothing in the dryer on a medium high to high setting for 8-10 minutes. This will kill any ticks hidden in clothing. While adult ticks are easy to spot, young ticks can be almost impossible to see. Ticks can and do survive washing in laundry cycles even with bleach. They do not survive 10 minutes in a hot dryer.
Predators and Prey
Ticks do bite humans and pets, but we are not their preferred specie. Ticks primarily prey on rodents, particularly mice and chipmunks. Red fox in the neighborhood will help, as they prey mostly on mice and chipmunks. Research studies have shown increases in red fox populations have caused declines in local tick populations. Fortunately we have quite a bit of fox in Dublin.
Opossums are also our best friends in tick season…ticks seem to latch onto them as they wander slowly through the environment foraging. They are low to the ground and easy targets. And the opossums eat any ticks that get on them. They groom themselves pretty meticulously like cats, and will pull off and consume any ticks, ensuring those ticks are permanently removed from the environment. Each opossum may consume thousands of ticks each season!
Ticks also prey on deer. We have a low and balanced deer group in Dublin and if we see a decrease in deer, we see an increase in Lyme disease in pets and people. Ticks that cannot find deer to bite, will seek out dogs, cats and humans.