April showers bring May flowers and this warmer weather beckons all family members outside to shake off the winter cobwebs. One of the last things anyone wants to worry about during this glorious seasonal warmup is pest control, but being proactive during tick season could save a lot of worry down the line. Living in Pennsylvania, we have grown accustomed to searching, finding and removing ticks, but tick season shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Children are the most at risk for being host to these pesky pests, since they are the most active outdoors playing in wooded or grassy areas that adults stay away from. While we do our due diligence to perform tick checks when the day winds down, not all ticks are the noticeable brown, pine nut sized nuisances! There are some ticks that are almost translucent and the size of a ballpoint pen head, and if you are doing a quick check they can go unnoticed.
Historically, the number of reported cases of Lyme disease are most prevalent in April, peak in the height of summer and taper off in the fall. Contradictory to popular belief that ticks are more active in the fall, they may be more noticeable, but not as active as the warmer months. This is related to the 2-year life cycle of the deer tick, which is the primary transmitter of Lyme disease. Even though we are about to embark in tick season for the year, don’t lose hope! There are plenty of personal precautionary measures as well as proactive measures you can perform on your own property to help reduce the tick population.
The first order of business before prepping your property for the season is to take personal precautions. Ticks don’t discriminate, so it is best to follow these tips when getting ready to do work outside to lessen your chances of being a meal ticket.
* Wear the appropriate clothes. Wearing light-colored clothing will help you find any freeloaders on your clothing, as most ticks are dark in color. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, tucking them into your socks or gloves to prevent skin access. Wearing a hat will also prevent tickets from taking refuge amongst your hair.
* Stick to pathways and open areas if possible. We know that tending to your property may not always call for work to be done out in the open, but weeding or cleaning up in bushy or wooded areas will increase the chances of making contact or having them drop onto you from above.
* Spray. Spraying store-bought products on your clothes and skin will deter ticks from taking hold. Effective products should contain a minimum 20% DEET, but it is recommended to not exceed 30% DEET in regards to application on children. Not a fan of the smell or the idea of chemical application? Try lemon eucalyptus oil as a substitute.
When tending to your property to make it more attractive at this time of year, it is just as important to make it less attractive to ticks. Making your property less appealing to ticks doesn’t require as much energy or chemical-laden techniques as you may think. Adapt some of these recommendations into your normal maintenance routine, and you will better your chances for a tick-free environment.
* Mow your lawn frequently and keep grassy areas free of leaf debris.
* Clear tall grasses and brush from around the property, these are perfect places for ticks to hide.
* Keep wood piles and feeders out of popular areas. These spaces attract wildlife that host and transport ticks.
* Place play sets and recreational areas at least 10’ from wooded edges.
* Utilize hardscaped surfaces like patios and decks to the fullest, ticks are less likely to be hanging out in these areas.
While ticks love to hang out on trees and plants and wait for hosts to shuffle by, it’s time to plant smarter instead of working harder! Including plants in your landscaping that deter ticks is another intelligent way to keep the population at bay. While including these plants in your landscape will not 110% guarantee a tick-free environment, the following are known to be unappealing to these little pests:
* Members of the mint family. Mint, catnip, sage, peppermint…etc. are all excellent plants that help repel ticks and are also safe around your children and pets too! You can dry and spread the leaves around your property and by your pet’s favorite shade spot, or you can grow them around your landscape! Please note that mint itself is considered invasive, in the way that it can take over your garden space quite quickly. We suggest planting mint in containers so you don’t have to bother with the upkeep. Also, planting mint in a container and placing by your kitchen door allows for easy access to pluck a few leaves for your summer mojitos!
* Rosemary. Not only can you reach outside the kitchen door to grab mint for your drinks, you can also grab a sprig or two of rosemary for your dinner marinade! Rosemary might be delicious to us home chefs, but it is very unpleasant to many insects as it is a natural aphid, flea, mosquito and fly repellent. Feel free to plant in your landscape or in containers.
* Chrysanthemums. Not only are chrysanthemums a beautiful addition to your landscape, they are known to kick fleas and ticks out of your landscape! Planting these flowers around your landscape or at the edge of your property will act as a little forcefield ready to hold back the intruders.
* Beautyberry. This shrub is a hit within the landscape. Known for its beautiful purple berries that dazzle in the whitewashed winter, it is also an excellent source of nourishment for birds when the temperatures take a downhill turn. While this shrub is awesome in the winter, it is also amazing in the warmer months! The compounds in this shrub’s leaves show great natural insect repellent properties. Some people say that the oil from the leaves is as effective as DEET. No research shows the effectiveness of this method, but if you venture to try yourself, exercise caution the first time to be sure your skin will not react to the oils.
Armed with information and motivation, implementing these tips and tricks will aid in your property and your family being a little safer this season.
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