If you live in a wooded area, the threat of Lyme disease-carrying deer ticks lurking in your backyard can make you think twice about letting your kids and pets go outside to play. Yet, you and your family don't have to be prisoners to these troublesome pests. When armed with the right facts and treatment solutions, you can gain control of the deer tick population in your yard and put your mind at ease.
Deer tick myths
There are quite a few myths about deer ticks and their behaviors. Discover how much you know about these pests by responding to the following true-or-false statements:
1. Deer ticks die after a hard frost or freeze.
False. Black-legged deer ticks can survive a hard freeze. In fact, they get more active after the first frost. Deer ticks have been known to survive in frigid temperatures, packed under snow.
2. Deer ticks aren't visible to the naked eye.
False. While you can't see any tick in its larvae stage, you can see a deer tick in its nymph and adult stages. In the nymph stage, most ticks look like small, black specks or poppy seeds.
3. Deer ticks are born with Lyme disease.
False. Deer ticks do not carry Lyme disease when hatched; they become carriers after feeding on common rodents, including white-footed field mice. Field mice start the Lyme disease chain because they carry the pathogen that leads to the disease. When a deer tick feeds on a carrier mouse, it ingests the pathogen and becomes infected. Deer ticks also carry other bacterial diseases, including anaplasmosis, borrelia miyamotoi and babesiosis, a disease born from a parasite that attacks red blood cells.
4. There is nothing I can do to lower the deer tick population in my yard.
False. All ticks, including deer ticks, favor dark, humid places, such as inside leaf and brush piles, under mulch, or in weed-heavy areas. Ticks can also live in shrubbery, ground cover, gardens or any other shaded area on your property; they generally don't live in areas that get full sun. To lower the deer tick population and reduce the number of mice in your yard, follow these seven tips:
Remove weeds and yard debris. Tall weeds, leaf and brush piles make great mouse and tick habitats.
Fence your yard to keep deer off of your property.
Keep play areas and lawn furniture away from wooded areas. Use landscape materials such as stones, mulch or wood chips to create boundary lines between your lawn areas and the woods.
Remove bird feeders, as mice will eat the seeds dropped to the ground by birds.
Keep fireplace wood piles away from areas where your kids and pets play, and where you entertain.
Seal home and outbuilding foundation walls to prevent access by mice.