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Springtime Means Tick Time

2014 April 24
Jim Jones


April 24, 2014
10:00 am EDT

I remember my distress when both of my children came home from camp one year with ticks. I know from friends and colleagues who have contracted diseases carried by ticks, such as Lyme disease, that Lyme disease can be a life-changing, harrowing experience — from fevers to joint-pain and numbness to worsening symptoms. Luckily, my own children were spared.

Ticks are a growing problem across much of the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, preliminary results from three different evaluation methods suggest that the number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease each year in the United States is around 300,000. With warmer weather upon us, we’re all gearing up for more time in the great outdoors.

It’s important for each of us to protect ourselves with the knowledge of how to prevent ticks. EPA recommends the use of the following Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices to manage ticks, thereby reducing the risk of tick-borne diseases:

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Wear clothing that keeps ticks from reaching your skin, such as long pants, long-sleeved shirt, hat, gloves, and boots. Cover boot lacings with duct tape.
  • Apply an insect repellent that’s labeled to repel ticks. Check out Why Read Labels first.
  • Try to avoid tick-friendly areas, such as tall grass and heavy vegetation.
  • After being outdoors, shower immediately using a washcloth.
  • Check yourself, your children and pets daily for ticks. Juvenile ticks can be as small as a poppy seed!
  • More information on ticks and tick IPM can be found at www.epa.gov/pestwise/ticks and http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/.

You can also reduce the number of ticks on your property by:

  • Removing leaf litter, brush, and weeds at the edge of the lawn.
  • Keeping grass mowed shorter than 3”.
  • Creating a nine foot buffer zone on trails frequented by deer.
  • Trying to keep deer and other animals that carry ticks from areas frequented by people.  See Tick Distribution and Creating a Tick Safe Zone in the Residential Landscape, page 36: http://www.ct.gov/caes/lib/caes/documents/special_features/tickhandbook.pdf

Where can ticks be found?

  • Different tick species can be found in different parts of the United States. Learn more about the geographic distribution of tick species.
  • Ticks can be in your backyard, in soccer fields, along trails, parks, and other outdoor areas.
  • Ticks can also be carried into your home by your pet.
  • CDC has reported seven tick species in the United States with 11 reported pathogens that have the potential to cause tick-borne disease.  There are approximately 80 tick species in the United States.

EPA is always working to make sure that the registered insect and tick repellents on the market are effective and safe when used as directed. But please do your part as well.  Let’s keep springtime healthy by protecting yourself, your children and pets against ticks and tick-borne diseases.

I wish you a happy spring season, and lots of safe, fun time exploring nature and the outdoors.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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3 Responses leave one →
  1. Kristine Milochik permalink
    April 24, 2014

    How effective are guinea hens in controlling ticks?

  2. Gary Fish permalink
    April 25, 2014

    Guinea hens are not very effective at finding and foraging for really tiny blackleggeed “deer” tick nymphs and therefore are not a very good measure for reducing lyme disease transmission. It is the nymphal ticks the most commonly vector the disease. See http://www.caryinstitute.org/sites/default/files/public/reprints/Price_2004_REU.pdf

    The hens can also be a host for the small ticks and therefore be a potential source of tick population increase.

    They will eat a few adult ticks and will keep enclosed areas pretty clean of adults, but it is the myphs at the forest edges that are the real problem.

  3. Dr. Charles Kreutzberger permalink
    April 28, 2014

    When considering a tick repellant, there are a number of good EPA registered repellants on the market. For some unknown reason the CDC website has as its focus DEET, but there are arguably better repellants both from a safety and an efficacy perspective.

    For instance consider the EPA registered repellants efficacy and % actives for Tick repellants:

    DEET at 25% is approved for 5h protection

    Picaridin at 10-20% is approved for 12-14h repellancy – depending on the formulation

    By comparison to achive a 10h Tick protection with DEET you need to use 100% DEET

    Bottom line here is that the CDC needs to be more telling about the facts and choices people have for Tick repellants. Their website and recommendations are slanted to a repellant that while effective and approved by the EPA, has some very real issues and concerns.

    Very strong arguments can be made that Picaridin is a far better choice as a Tick repellant.

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