How to Prevent Ticks in Your Yard
Ticks are small blood-sucking parasites that hang around all year long but are most active when it’s warm outside. They grab onto hosts, which range from humans to pets to wild animals, from shrubs or other vegetation.
What Are Common Types of Ticks?
Ticks commonly found in the United States are:
There are over 800 species of ticks found throughout the world, but luckily we only have to deal with four common types, and while they might seem similar, each species has its own unique characteristics and habits.
The American dog tick is active throughout the spring, summer, and fall. It can live anywhere with vegetation cover that gives it a good hiding spot, including woodland paths, parks, pastures, and backyards. This tick prefers to feed on a different animal in each life stage; as larvae, they feed on small mammals like mice and voles while nymphs feed on opossums and raccoons. As their name suggests, adult American dog ticks often choose dogs, and humans, as hosts.
This species of tick feeds almost exclusively on dogs, rarely attaching itself to humans. Females lay mass amounts of eggs in protected cracks and crevices, resulting in several thousand larvae hatching at once. Brown dog tick populations can quickly grow out of hand, especially in dog kennels where they have a plentiful selection of hosts.
The lone star tick most often feeds on humans, as well as other large mammals like deer and dogs. Adults and nymphs are active in the spring and summer while larvae are abundant during the fall. A bite from this species can also cause the alpha-gal allergy, which causes an allergy to mammal meat, such as beef, pork, and lamb.
The black-legged tick is also commonly known as a deer tick. Larvae and nymphs feed on lizards and small mammals while adults prefer dogs and deer. As its name suggests, this species’ identifying characteristic is its black legs and brown body. Black-legged ticks are the vector for the bacterium that causes Lyme Disease, making it important to be able to distinguish between this species and others.
Where Do Ticks Come From?
Ticks are often picked up in wooded areas or patches of overgrown vegetation. They have to stay attached to their hosts for several days to properly feed, meaning they travel wherever their host goes.
What animals carry ticks?
Ticks can attach themselves to nearly any animal, making them a carrier. Wild animals that commonly have ticks include deer, opossums, raccoons, squirrels, birds, and lizards. Ticks can also find their way onto your cat or dog and subsequently find their way into your home and around your family, making you a potential host.
What Attracts Ticks?
Ticks are constantly either searching for their next meal or for a safe place to hide, so aspects of both are what attracts them the most. This includes:
When ticks are questing, or searching for a new host, they rely on stimuli to help guide them in the right direction. Such stimuli include heat and carbon dioxide, which all warm-blooded mammals give off, letting ticks know they’re guaranteed a meal.
Little is known about how ticks see the world, although it’s assumed their visual images are quite simple, forcing them to rely on their other senses. Movement, and the vibrations that accompany it, excite tick responses, causing them to extend and wave their forelegs in hopes of making contact with a nearby host.
Ticks are sensitive to dry conditions, so they gravitate to tall grass that takes longer to dry completely and that can shade them from the harsh sun. Overgrown grass also acts as a safe space, as well as a vector to attach ticks to their hosts.
Similar to tall grass, ticks use leaf litter as a hiding spot. The inner layers of leaf piles stay moist, giving ticks the perfect habitat.
Spilled bird seed itself doesn’t attract ticks, but it does attract rodents and deer that carry them, introducing them onto your property. If your birdfeeder is spilling seeds, or you discard other food in your yard, completing a quick cleanup can help prevent ticks and unwanted critters.
Where Do Ticks Hide in Your Yard?
Ticks avoid dry conditions, so they hide in places that are moist and shaded. You might not realize it at first, but your yard is full of hiding places for ticks, such as:
- Piles of leaves
- Tall grasses
- Dense brush
- Playground equipment
- Patio furniture
- Areas with trash
Are Ticks Dangerous?
While their bites aren’t particularly painful or damaging, ticks are considered dangerous because of the variety of diseases they can transmit to humans. Diseases common in North Carolina that are caused by tick-borne pathogens include:
- Lyme Disease
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness
Where Do Ticks Live?
Ticks live in shady and moist areas usually around ground level. They will generally cling to tall grass and low shrubs and are ready to jump off these locations onto their next prey. Around your home, you'll find ticks around your lawn, in your garden and around the edge of woods and forests.
What Repels Ticks?
The best way to repel ticks is with EPA registered insect repellents, that way you know the product is both effective and safe to use. The most effective products contain DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. To make things even easier, the EPA has a search tool you can use to find the best repellent for your needs.
Does Vinegar Repel Ticks?
Many websites might claim that apple cider vinegar can repel ticks and that it is an effective tick repellent for dogs, however, its effectiveness hasn’t been proved. The best way to protect your family is with tested, proven tick repellents.
Does Dish Soap Kill Ticks?
Technically, yes, dish soap will kill ticks. Dish soap works as a surfactant which lowers the surface tension of water, causing ticks to slip below the water’s surface and drown. Dish soap will not affect ticks that have already attached themselves to a host or eggs that are embedded within your pet’s hair.
How to Protect Yourself from Ticks
In addition to tick repellents, there are other simple precautions you can take to protect yourself from ticks:
- Tucking your pant legs into your socks and tucking your shirt hem into your pants minimizes the amount of skin a tick can reach, reducing the likelihood that one will be able to attach itself to you.
- Avoiding overgrown weedy areas and tall grass in favor of wide, clear paths can also prevent contact with ticks.
- If you have to enter tick-infested areas, checking your clothing and body at least twice a day can lessen the chance of a tick having enough time to bite you.
How to Remove a Tick
If you find a tick on your body, don’t panic! Instead, find a pair of fine-tipped tweezers and remove the tick as soon as possible. Here’s how to do it:
- Use the tweezers to grasp the tick, getting as close to the skin’s surface as you can.
- Pull steadily upwards—don’t twist or jerk the tick. Sudden movements can cause part of the tick’s mouth to break off, remaining under your skin. If this happens, use tweezers to remove the parts left behind.
- Thoroughly wash your hands and the area with soap and water.
Will Nail Polish Remove a Tick?
Remedies such as covering it in nail polish remover or petroleum jelly, freezing it off, and touching it with a hot match can actually force the tick deeper into your skin and increase your risk of infection. Folk remedies for removing ticks are popular, but that doesn’t mean they’re effective. The goal with tick removal is to get it off as quickly as possible, not wait for it to detach itself, which is what these at-home methods promote.
Common Places for Ticks to Bite
It’s important to conduct a full-body check after spending time in potentially tick-infested areas. It can be difficult to view your entire body, so using a mirror can help get the job done. Pay special attention to the areas of your body that are the warmest and most inviting to ticks, such as:
- Behind the knee
- In and around the ears
- Inner thigh
- In and around any hair
- Inside the belly button
Do Ticks Have Predators?
Ticks do have predators, but they’re mostly generalists that only occasionally feed on ticks. This means they cannot effectively reduce tick populations, and can even become hosts to ticks themselves. The natural predators of ticks include:
- Guinea fowl
- Wild turkeys
Opossums are one of the best when it comes to eating ticks, and are a critical member of our ecosystem. However, that doesn’t mean you should solely rely on them to keep ticks out of your yard.
How Do Pest Control Companies Get Rid of Ticks?
Ticks are difficult to eliminate, but pest control companies like Terminix Triad are properly trained and equipped to handle the job. To effectively eliminate ticks, we create a custom treatment plan based on your unique situation. While the details may vary depending on your needs, most pest control companies handle a tick infestation by:
- Inspecting your yard to identify areas where ticks are hiding
- Strategically apply pesticides in high-risk areas, like the border of woodland areas and stone walls.
- Treating eggs and larvae, preventing future generations of ticks from taking over.
- Continuing to treat throughout tick season to ensure your property remains tick-free.