The summer months offer a variety of opportunities for outdoor fun, but they also bring concerns about ticks and Lyme Disease. Luckily, there are a number of steps you can take to minimize the risk of tick bites this summer. These tactics mostly revolve around defining a “safe zone” in your yard and protecting that zone from ticks and host animals that carry ticks.
1) Remove all debris
If there is any trash in your yard, piles of sticks or leaves or cut grass, remove it. If you store your trash outside until garbage day, just make sure it’s away from the safe zone. Debris attracts host animals like rodents and it is a safe harbor for ticks as well. The first step is just to make sure your yard is nice and clean, which your neighbors will appreciate anyway!
2) Maximize Sunlight
Ticks need an environment of high humidity to survive, they love moisture. Pruning back trees limbs and removing any other shade will help to keep the tick population down. You want your safe zone to be as sunny as possible.
3) Treat the area with organic pesticides
Some substances that are not pesticides do repel ticks. Garlic is said to help keep ticks at bay. It does NOT kill ticks but like many insects, they may tend to avoid it. We spray our yard with garlic because it IS deadly to mosquitoes and if the ticks hate it, that’s a bonus.
Another option that does kill ticks is food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE). DE has many uses but one of the great ones is that it dries out and kills insects that crawl across it. It looks like a white powder and is composed of crushed, fossilized algae. It’s similar to the DE used to filter water in pools, but do NOT use that type of DE. It has other chemicals in it and it won’t kill ticks because the silica content is too high. You can spread DE all over your yard or use it as a barrier around the perimeter. A couple of warnings here, wear a mask when you apply it and be aware that it will kill any bug that crawls across it, including beneficial ones.
The last and best option we’ll mention is cedar oil. Most bugs hate cedar oil and it’s deadly to ticks, attacking them in 6 different ways. We use a combo of garlic oil and cedar oil throughout the summer and have found this to be a very effective strategy for spraying the yard. You can also use cedar oil on your body without worrying about side effects.
Where to Buy Cedar Oil
For a full range of cedar oil products for use on yards, pets, livestock, humans and more, visit Cedarcide.
4) Control host animals
Treating the safe zone with repellents can help but host animals can carry ticks anywhere and drop them wherever they go, so you need to repel host animals as well. Deer can be kept out with fencing, by planting deer-repellent plants around the perimeter, and by treating with certain substances like ammonia, human hair and hot sauce-based repellents. Hot sauce and essential oil-based repellents also work on other host animals like rodents. Rodents can be trapped or you can make owl-boxes to attract owls and let nature take its course. Rodents also hate cedar oil.
5) Treat host animals
One effective strategy is to lay tick tubes around the perimeter of the safe zone. Tick tubes contain cotton laced with Permethrin, which is not an organic pesticide but it’s harmless to the rodents that use it to form their nests and deadly to the ticks that nest there as well. It is claimed that this can reduce the tick population by 90%, though it hasn’t seemed quite that effective for our own yard.
DIY Tick Tubes
Protect your yard from Lyme disease...
If you want to go all out, or have a lot of deer in your area, you can use a similar strategy for deer. It’s possible to buy a 4-Poster Station where deer come to feed and while they visit they get laced with Permethrin, killing their ticks.
There are also some simple landscaping techniques that will keep ticks at bay. First, keep wood piles well away from the safe zone as they harbor rodents and ticks. Keep the grass cut short and weeds well trimmed in and around the safe zone. A good string trimmer is an essential weapon in the war against ticks.
It also helps to have a “dead zone” around the perimeter of the safe zone. This makes it difficult for ticks to crawl into the safe zone. One common example is a 3 foot wide path covered with mulch or gravel. This can be made to look great as well, serving dual purposes.
You can also spray pesticides, natural or chemical. The upside of spraying is that it’s very effective if done correctly, reducing the tick population in an area by 85-90%. It can also be done with minimal spraying, targeting specific areas of the yard where ticks reproduce with light spraying done only twice per year. Permethrin is an effective chemical and cedar oil is the recommended natural alternative (highly recommended as it has WAY fewer side effects, like being poisonous to your cats).
How to Kill Ticks Naturally
Keep your family safe from Lyme disease...
Bonus: Fungal treatment coming
It has recently been found that certain types of naturally occurring fungus can kill ticks. This could be great news as it would be an organic method of spraying that would be highly effective as well.
Now, go treat those yards and create a tick-free zone for you and the kids!