If you live in New England, ticks are an unfortunate constant once winter snows recede and spring arrives. There are numerous reasons for the continued growth of tick populations (and a resulting rise in the number of tick bites and cases of Lyme Disease), but one of the most clear is we’ve created areas that are hospitable to ticks and the animals that they (and Lyme Disease) feed on.
Beware the Mouse
While the Deer Tick is most commonly associated with, well, the Deer, they are more likely to feed, breed, and pick-up/spread Lyme Disease on the white-footed mouse. The White-footed mouse is a common species in New England, and they have exploded in population over the past decades.
The areas we’ve developed have pushed out their natural predators, but left plenty of room for the white-footed mouse to live. In order to reduce your chances of deer tick encounters, it’s important to take steps to do your best to keep mice activity to a minimum near your home.
The first step is making sure to practice proper mouse exclusion: that is, make sure your home doesn’t have easy access points for mice to enter. Once your home is secure focus on your outdoor area.
Pest Control Landscaping
Both ticks and mice like a yard that looks like a wild forest or meadow. In order to minimize the presence of both, keep your grass mowed, remove brush / leaf piles, and identify and eliminate areas that might make a perfect, enclosed den for mice.
When we perform tick and mosquito control programs, our first and most important task is a site evaluation. Not just to identify areas to apply product, but easy, non-spray fixes as listed above that will have a big impact on mice and tick populations.
Clothing, Repellant, and Tick Checks
Before or after you tackle your home, your best bet to prevent tick bites are wearing proper clothing while out in woods, using bug repellants, and, at the end of the day, performing a tick check. Folks who work in high-risk fields, such as agriculture, forestry, etc, are good to emulate in terms of cultural practices to prevent tick-borne disease. They are often encouraged to wear clothing treated with permethrin (Insect Shield is a common brand), wear long pants and sleeves, and to take their daily shower at the end of the day so they can perform a tick-check.
If you do end up getting bitten by a tick and find it attached to you, it’s very important that you don’t immediately tear it off and destroy it. Take a deep breath, remove it carefully (tweezers are useful) trying to make sure you get the head out, and store it in a plastic bag or take a photo so you can identify if it is a deer tick.
You can simply google image search, or you could use an app on your phone, such as TickID. If it is a deer tick, don’t hesitate to go in to see your GP. They can inspect the bite, observe you to see if you have any symptoms, and, if they think you have possibly been exposed to Lyme, get you tested or prescribe a course of antibiotics.
Live with ‘em, Not in fear of ‘em
While it’s not an ideal arrangement, ticks are part of the environment with live in and have created. Taking a few precautions, creating a tick management plan, and doing regular tick checks in the warmer months, will greatly reduce your chances of catching Lyme Disease.
If you’d like to talk with us about ways we can help you in your effort to reduce tick and mouse populations in your yard, please reach out.