How To: Get Rid of Ticks
Banish disease-carrying pests from your property with these smart gardening practices.
Ticks are a fact of outdoor life throughout the United States. These blood-feeding arachnids become active every year after the first frost. But, while every creature has its place in the food chain, you don’t want to become a link in that of a tick, which can spread diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme. Finding a tick attached to a loved one (two- or four-legged!)—not to mention yourself—ends in an uncomfortable, decidedly icky removal process. Fortunately, you can lessen the likelihood of exposure to the tiny yet terrible pests. Read on for smart, simple strategies for how to get rid of ticks on your property.
Pull Plants That Deer Love
Deer ticks (also known as the blacklegged tick) are the ones most responsible for spreading Lyme disease, which has become an outright epidemic in parts of the Northeastern United States. When pondering best ways for how to get rid of ticks—especially disease-carrying—you actually should start by deterring their hosts, deer. Discourage the hungry visitors from entering your yard by eliminating their grazing favorites: tulips, hostas, daylilies, azaleas, rhododendron, euonymus, and Indian hawthorne. And, if you’ve now got holes in your garden, consider replacing them with more deer resistant varieties like boxwood, butterfly bush, and daphne.
Add Plants That Ticks Hate, Too
Certain shrubbery, like Japanese barberry, serves as excellent questing spots for ticks looking to hitch a ride on their next host. Fortunately, various plants, thanks to their powerful scent, discourage ticks and other pests (like fleas, mosquitoes, and gnats). Herbs such as mint, rosemary, rue, pennyroyal, and wormwood, flowers like chrysanthemums, Mexican marigolds, and the aptly named flea-bane daisy—and don’t forget good old garlic—can help pull up the welcome mat and keep parasites at bay.
Mow Often and Maintain Landscaping
While ticks can travel anywhere, they are most prevalent in tall grass and low shrubbery. A wide swath of low grass isn’t their preference, so mow your lawn regularly, and to make it harder for ticks to hitch a ride into your yard, reduce heavy brush and ground cover bordering your property. Also keep leaves and other yard waste from accumulating around your shrubs. After feeding, a deer tick will drop off its host, and can remain dormant in leaf litter until the following spring, when it will seek another blood meal. This is when people and pets are most in danger of infection, as the ticks may have ingested disease-causing pathogens from their previous meal that they can then transmit to their next host.
Clean Up the Woodpile
Ticks generally breed while on their host, but they lay eggs on the ground, seeking out dark, moist places. If you keep a woodpile outside, elevate it off the ground and stack it neatly, so that air can flow through to keep it dry. If currently in a shaded area, relocate it to a sunny spot, away from your house, to make it less attractive to ticks. A jumbled, shaded woodpile is also a perfect habitat for mice and other small rodents that often serve as the first host to tick larvae and nymphs. The fewer hosts in your yard, the less likely ticks will survive there.
Discourage Small Host Animals
While deer are a favorite host for ticks, many small mammals and birds serve as hosts and delivery vehicles for them as well. The white-footed mouse is a particularly common host, and the rise in deer tick population is closely correlated with the prevalence of this rodent. So in addition to tidying up your woodpile, maintain any stonewalls around your property so they don’t become a breeding ground for critters. And while birds can be a joy to observe, if you have a tick problem, banish bird feeders, or locate them far from the house. Not only do birds serve as hosts for ticks, spilled seed will draw small rodent hosts.
Use the Right Insecticide
There are a number of insecticides (generally synthetic pyrethroids, which mimic the natural insecticidal properties of chrysanthemum) that can successfully help reduce tick populations. You need not treat your entire yard if it’s well kept and receives ample sun. Because ticks are most often found on the borders of a home’s property, especially if it abuts a wooded area, spray the perimeter of your place with insecticide, or try a natural alternative, like cedar oil.