Welcome to the unofficial start of summer with outdoor parties, barbeques, parades and celebrations under the stars. However, a perfect storm of weather conditions over the past months have made conditions ripe for what is being predicted to be a powerful crop of mosquito and tick populations to wreak havoc on outdoor plans.
Reported cases of Lyme disease continue to rise with more than 280,000 Americans being diagnosed since 2002, with an additional 30,000 diagnoses just last year. Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An illness that can have lifelong debilitating effects such as arthritis, fatigue and even neurological deficits, Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged or deer ticks.
In addition to performing a daily tick check, there are specific actions a homeowner can take to reduce the tick and mosquito population in their yards, thus reducing exposure for themselves, guests and pets:
The 6 Cs to Tick-Proof Your Yard
1. Clear out. Reduce your tick exposure by clearing out areas where lawn and tree debris gathers. Ticks thrive in moist, shady areas and tend to die in sunny, dry areas. Locate compost piles away from play areas or high traffic. Separate them with wood chips or gravel. Don’t position playground equipment, decks and patios near treed areas.
2. Clean. Eliminate leaf litter and brush by cleaning it up around the house and lawn edges, mow tall grasses and keep your lawn short.
3. Choose plants. Select plants and shrubs that are not attractive to deer and/or install physical barriers to keep deer out of your yard. Check with your local nursery to determine the best choices for your area.
4. Check hiding places. Know tick hiding places and check them frequently. Fences, brick walls and patio retaining walls are popular hiding places.
5. Care for family pets. Family pets can suffer from tick-borne disease and also carry infected ticks into the home. Talk to your veterinarian about using tick collars and sprays. As with all pest control products, be sure to follow directions carefully.
6. Call the pros. Professionals utilize both barrier sprays that can kill live ticks on the spot as well as “tick tubes.” Strategically placed, “tick tubes” prompt field mice to incorporate tick-killing material in their bedding, effectively eliminating hundreds of tick nymphs found in each mouse nest.
When outdoors away from home, the CDC recommends wearing long-sleeved, long-legged, light-colored clothing. Tuck pant legs into socks to refuse ticks an entry point. Spray clothing and any exposed skin with a product containing 20 percent DEET. Clothing and other gear, but not skin, can be treated with Permethrin, which will kills ticks and mosquitoes on contact and should last through several washings. Check carefully for ticks after being outdoors.
5 Ts to Control Mosquitoes
1. Tip. Reduce standing water to eliminate mosquito threats, including those in children’s sandboxes, wagons or plastic toys; underneath and around downspouts, in plant saucers and dog bowls. Other hot spots include tarps, gutters, and flat roofs.
2. Toss. Remove excess grass, leaves, firewood and clippings from yards.
3. Turn. Turn over larger yard items that could hold water like children’s portable sandboxes or plastic toys.
4. Remove tarps. If tarps stretched over firewood piles, boats or sports equipment and grills aren’t taut, they’re holding water.
5. Treat. Utilize a mosquito elimination barrier treatment around the home and yard. Using a barrier treatment at home reduces the need for using DEET-containing bug spray on the body. Mosquito Squad’s treatments eliminate up to 90 percent of the mosquitoes and ticks on a property.