For more than 250,000 Americans, the bite of a deer tick meant the start of a life changing disease. With record warm temperatures and the start of May's National Lyme Disease Awareness Month, Mosquito Squad (http://www.mosquitosquad.com) is on watch and has six tips to help homeowners tick-proof their yards.
Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Each year, more than 30,000 Americans contract Lyme disease, an illness that can have lifelong debilitating effects such as arthritis, fatigue and even neurological deficits. Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged or deer ticks.
"There is no doubt that ticks present a threat to the health of Americans, their families and even their pets, due to the movement and rise in the deer tick population," said Boyd Huneycutt, vice president of Mosquito Squad and the company's resident vector expert. "We urge everyone to control the factors they can, and check themselves thoroughly when in areas that can house tick populations."
The 6 C's to Tick-Proof Your Yard
Huneycutt recommends the following steps for tick-proof yards:
- Clear out. Reduce your tick exposure by clearing out areas where lawn and tree debris gathers. Ticks thrive in moist, shady areas and tend to die in sunny, dry areas. Locate compost piles away from play areas or high traffic. Separate them with wood chips or gravel. Don't position playground equipment, decks and patios near treed areas.
- Clean. Eliminate leaf litter and brush by cleaning it up around the house and lawn edges, mow tall grasses and keep your lawn short.
- Choose plants. Select plants and shrubs that are not attractive to deer and/or install physical barriers to keep deer out of your yard. Check with your local nursery to determine the best choices for your area.
- Check hiding places. Know tick hiding places and check them frequently. Fences, brick walls and patio retaining walls are popular hiding places.
- Care for family pets. Family pets can suffer from tick-borne disease and also carry infected ticks into the home. Talk to your veterinarian about using tick collars and sprays. As with all pest control products, be sure to follow directions carefully.
- Call the pros. Professionals utilize both barrier sprays that can kill live ticks on the spot as well as "tick tubes." Strategically placed, "tick tubes" prompt field mice to incorporate tick-killing material in their bedding, effectively eliminating hundreds of tick nymphs found in each mouse nest.
According to Huneycutt, there is actually an additional "C" for homeowners: Communicate."
"Once you understand how ticks breed, share that information with others, especially those with small children or those older than age 55. If Lyme disease is contracted by either of these groups, they typically sustain the most severe health complications," Huneycutt said.
When outdoors away from home, the CDC recommends wearing long-sleeved, long-legged, light-colored clothing. Tuck pant legs into socks to refuse ticks an entry point. Spray clothing and any exposed skin with a product containing 20% DEET. Clothing and other gear, but not skin, can be treated with Permethrin, which will kill ticks and mosquitoes on contact and should last through several washings. Check carefully for ticks after being outdoors.