Get Rid of Deer Ticks

Got deer roaming your yard? Then you most likely do have deer ticks, which in case you haven’t heard, carry Lyme Disease. Even if the deer are only passing through since you’ve maintained a sound deer repellent regime to protect your plants, ticks disembark whenever they’re full. Wherever that may be.

Scary. The odds of being stricken by Lyme Disease continue to grow. The CDC stats show a 96% increase in reported cases, and suspect that as much as 10 times that number goes unidentified. Lyme Disease is now 2 times more common than breast cancer, and 6 times more common than HIV and AIDS. Some people have no idea they’ve been bitten until diagnosed with the infection long after the event. And after finding several crawling on me over the past summer and on my furniture, looking into how to keep them out of the yard and fringe areas I frequent suddenly became important. Not sure how far the lioness roams on the prowl, but that cat thinks anything she can tackle is prime for the plucking. Some tick population control is needed.

Firstly it’s unlikely that deer ticks would hang out in your flower or veggie garden. It’s in full sun, like a lawn, except the corn patch, which creates an ecosystem something like the woods. They need moist shade, and prefer a spot with shelter from the sun like fallen leaves, and wood piles. Of course, if your yard is shady and wooded, it raises the possibility of ticks being just about anywhere, as will unmaintained meadow areas next to where you mow. And in a moist climate, the odds that they’re out there under your bushes and strawberry plants increases, though studies of several Northeastern states found that only 9% of the properties had any ticks under the landscaping plants, and only 2% had them in the lawn.

Black-Legged Ticks: Adult & Engorged

Black-Legged Ticks: Adult & Engorged (Courtesy of Michigan DNR)

They’re not just there for the deer though, and deer don’t carry the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease. The Ixodes type ticks, both the deer tick, and the black legged tick, aren’t that selective about the blood they feed on, and have a long life compared to other troublesome bugs. They aren’t a true insect. Ticks are so hard to get rid of because they’re in the spider family, making them immune to many insecticides. Having someone spray the yard isn’t a wise idea, because on top of it being expensive, the pesticide also kills bees, and to get them all, the application would have to cover all the wild areas beyond your property boundaries. Not only would most homeowners not want to absorb that kind of cost, it may be illegal to spray pesticides in natural areas bordering a residential development. A lot of these natural spaces in developed areas today are preserves, and 68% of the deer tick population is in the woods, while only 28% can be found in the brush along a woods’ edge.

Only adult ticks are carried around by deer. They are large animals, and immature deer ticks select birds, rodents, and even lizards as their host. If it’s warm-bloodied, it’s a sure source of food to these parasites, though the larvae stage will feed on cold-blooded creatures. And it is the nymph stage that is most infectious in the deer tick life cycle when they target small animals – mice, rats, weasels, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits… and what-not. But the primary source of bacterial infection of ticks come from feeding on white-footed mice. Research has shown that 75% of Lyme Disease transmittal comes from tick nymph infested white-footed mice. Not the common house mouse, mind you, these are larger mice not known for moving indoors. Still they have a habitat that covers large portions of the US, Canada, and South America, as well as other continents.

White-Footed Mouse: Lyme Disease Bacteria Source

White-Footed Mouse (Courtesy of Dr. Gordon Robertson/Wikipedia)

House Mouse

House Mouse (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Killing all the mice isn’t going to work, the ticks will just latch onto another chosen host, and the other 25% of the small animals infecting the ticks will still be running loose. Got squirrels, chipmunks, or shrews? They are known to be reservoirs of the Lyme bacteria too. All of these wee varmints are like, everywhere. So, being worried about the adult deer ticks jumping off the deer will make the battle that much harder. The most dangerous source is the nymphs, and there’s a lot more of them than adults. They don’t all live to maturity, and aren’t all infected, but it’s the smart level to start depopulation.

Of course, it would take forever to find all the mouse nests in your yard, let alone those in the surrounding territory. It’s way more intelligent to have the mouse distribute and administer population control. Which is what makes these tick tubes I found so brilliant. They’re filled with pesticide treated cotton balls that mice will use to build their nests – IF you put them where they find them during nest-building seasons.

Damminix Tick Tubes LabelThere are those who make their own with toilet paper tubes and dryer lint or cotton balls. Hope they’re using proper protection while doing this, because permethrin may be approved as an insecticide for organic gardening, but it is anything but non-toxic. If it wasn’t toxic, fleas and ticks wouldn’t die from contact. It’s much safer, faster, and more convenient to just buy the Damminix Tick Tubes, and wear gloves while handling them.

Damminix tubes contain permethrin, which is quite effective for killing ticks as long as you place enough of them to cover where mice would normally roam in your yard and bordering overgrown areas. Best coverage would be just 1 tube every 30 feet along a perimeter; the fence, wall, brush line, skirted porch, or deck, and under low-growing plants. Think like a mouse – where would you have the most protected place to scurry about?

The best buy I’ve found on tick tubes is on Amazon. Got Prime? The shipping is free!

DO NOT put tick tubes out the wrong time of year. Mice build nests in the spring in preparation for their babies, and the tick larvae attach themselves in summer to prepare for morphing into nymphs. Missing this timeframe means that a whole new population of egg-bearing adults will develop to lay next year’s larvae. It takes 2 years from egg to death after procreating with Ixodes ticks.

To learn what calendar dates you would best accomplish this task, it’s a good idea to inquire at your local DNR or Extension Office.

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