Ticks are small pests that can cause several serious diseases and illnesses such as Lyme disease, Powassan virus, and more. If your property is backed up to a woodline or you have heavy vegetation around your property, you can be susceptible to tick activity. It’s important to take precautions when spending time in your yard with family, friends, or pets to avoid coming in contact with potentially dangerous ticks. As a homeowner, you should be informed about the dangers of the diseases ticks can transmit to humans and animals.
Not sure if you have ticks at home? Or maybe you want to learn more about how tick control works. Check out the following information to clarify some questions you may have.
How did I get ticks?
Ticks do not fly or jump, but they can latch onto fur, clothing, or skin. These pests often hitchhike indoors on pets or household pests like rats and mice. Tick infestation may also indicate a stray animal (opossum, raccoon, etc.) is living near home. Exceptions to this rule are brown dog ticks, a species that survives and reproduces quite well inside, and soft ticks that sometimes invade structures searching for a host.
Where do ticks live?
Ticks need a host to survive. They live in tall grasses where they are concealed and can easily latch onto their victim. If your property is backed up to a wood line or you don’t regularly mow your lawn, it greatly increases your chances for tick activity. If your property has these elements, any host (dogs or humans) can fall prey to ticks, in turn bringing them indoors. If your dog was outdoors somewhere other than your property, there is a chance they can bring them back to your home. Dog parks, nature trails, and even walks around your neighborhood are common breeding grounds for ticks.
Dogs are just as venerable as humans to tick bites and infections. Spending time at dog parks, in backyards, and taking walks in the woods with their humans makes them exposed. Unlike humans, dogs are not clothed and walk lower to the ground, exposing nearly all of their bodies at all times. It is very important that you check your dog for tick symptoms and bites after spending time outdoors.
Deer and other wild animals are even more susceptible to ticks simply because they live outdoors and venture back and forth between your yard and the woods or other natural habitats. Even homes without wood lines can fall victim to tick activity through visits from these critters.
Should I be concerned about ticks?
These pests do not present much of a threat to well-built homes with effectively constructed and maintained exclusionary measures unless there is a host’s burrow or nest inside the structure. However, in rustic cabins or old, poorly constructed, and maintained homes with multiple sources of entry, the pests may attempt to feed on humans before returning to their sheltered sites. According to a recent CDC statement, the number of illnesses caused by tick bites tripled between 2004 and 2016.
Some species of ticks can transmit over 15 viruses and infections. Some of these problem ticks include:
- American dog ticks
- Deer or black-legged ticks
- Lone star ticks
How do I identify a tick infestation?
The first signs are usually the pests themselves. Secondary signs can include medical symptoms from diseases or fluids transmitted by ticks. These can vary and are best left to a medical professional for diagnosis. Repairing any crevices or gaps and keeping grass cut short outside may discourage infestations.
How can I remove a tick?
Ticks found on pets or people require cautious and thorough removal. Trusting online message boards or getting tips from your friends and family can be dangerous when it comes to tick removal. Please follow this guide to ensure that you are treating the situation safely and effectively.
What NOT to do:
- Petroleum jelly or nail polish– This will not make the tick any easier to remove. Ticks embed into a host with their mouths which are not likely to unlatch or dissolve by using this method.
- Excessive heat– Using excessive heat could cause parts of the tick to break off such as its mouth, leaving parts in your skin that are open to infection.
- Using your hands – Not only is this extremely difficult, but you may squeeze the tick and release its infectious bodily fluids.
What you should do:
- Tweezers – Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the surface of the skin as possible.
- Pull gently – Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- Disinfect – Infected areas should be thoroughly washed and disinfected. If there are concerns resulting from a flea or tick bite, seek medical attention immediately.
Tips to prevent tick
- Keep the lawn well-manicured by mowing grass frequently, at least once per week. Also remove brush, debris, and leaf litter.
- Keep children’s playsets, sandboxes, at least 10’ away from property edges that border tick environments.
- If installing a fence, keep a manicured buffer zone between the fence and wooded areas or un-manicured fields.
- Keep piles of firewood away from the structure and store on the part of the property away from decks, patios, and play areas. Firewood piles are a favorite nesting area for mice and will promote tick activity associated with rodents.
- Avoid dense landscaping and heavy ground covers such as ivy, pachysandra, crawling juniper, or thick shrubs. Densely landscaped areas are attractive to birds, rodents, and a variety of small animals that will introduce ticks to these areas.