It's important to check for ticks after doing yard work and other activities outside. After clearing brush yesterday I checked my body then my clothes and was looking through my hair when I spotted a tick in my ponytail. I find that it's easiest to kill a tick with a lighter and that's how this one met its demise. It never ceases to gross me out when I find a tick on my body and this year the tick population seems to be much worse than previous years.
As a vet hospital we stress monthly flea and tick preventives for pets but is there a way to keep the tick population out of our yards and away from us and our children? Below are a few ideas on how to protect yourself and control the tick population around your house.
- Don't allow your grass to get too long. With all the rain and early sun this spring, the grass is growing quickly. Make sure to keep it short and mow regularly. Ticks like to hang out at the top of long grass stalks and wait for host to pass by so they can latch on.
- Along the same lines as #1, keep brush and other weeds clear of the areas where you spend time. When trimming back trees and overgrown vegetation, dispose of it quickly in an unused area.
- Wear long pants with shoes and socks (pants tucked into socks) and long sleeves with a hat or bandana when walking through wooded areas or long grass. (I wear a long bandana when I'm outside. It's long enough to cover my neck when I'm clearing brush and gardening.) Wear light colors which make it easier to spot any ticks that do end up on your clothing.
- Leave about a 2ft. area with mulch or woodchips where your yard ends and nature begins. This can make it more difficult for ticks to cross over into your yard.
- There are several sprays and other products available on the market to kill ticks. Many of these chemicals are ingested by ticks which can then spread them to other ticks, killing off large quantities of the parasite. Please be judicious when using chemicals in your yard. Always read the labels as these products can be harmful to pets or children if the directions aren't followed.
- This is an unusual solution but if you live in the country like I do, consider raising an animal that can help keep the tick population in your yard to a minimum. We raise free-range chickens and decided to incorporate a few guinea fowl into the flock to protect the other birds (guineas are known for being the "sirens of the barnyard") and to eat ticks. Guinea fowl love to eat ticks and they walk around our yard foraging for the parasites.
- Keep wild animals out of your yard. I found a recently deceased squirrel in our yard and I didn't have to look very close to discover it was infested with ticks—yuck! To aid in the exclusion of pests, keep the trash bags secured, fence in around the garden and compost pile, and don't leave anything out that would attract foragers.
- Remember, tick treatments work in various ways on your pet. There is still a possibility that although a tick won't bite and latch onto a treated pet it still may be able to ride into your house on your dog or cat's fur. Check all pets for ticks before they come in to the house. If possible, try not to let them run freely in areas that may have high tick populations.