In addition to consistent spray treatments from early spring through the fall, there are several techniques that will also help reduce tick populations. Below are some common tips that, when combined with a quality spray program, will provide a great one-two punch to knock ticks out of your yard.
- Remove leaf litter. Ticks are constantly combating desiccation (drying out) during any of their four life-cycle stages, so they favor leaf litter for its moist environment. Females also lay eggs in leaves, and in each lifecycle stage, some time is spent by ticks in leaf litter. Finally, leaf litter offers ticks a hiding place to get through the cold of winter.
- Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.Ticks like to climb to the top of tall grass or brush to look for questing opportunities—the chance to grab on to passing-mammal-blood-meal. By keeping grass and weeds at bay, you’ll minimize those chances and make it more difficult for ticks to latch onto you or members of your family, or to travel around your property by hitching a ride on your dog.
- Place a 3-foot wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration into recreational areas.Many tick varieties, including the Lyme-transmitting black-legged variety, favor the dense cover of woodlands over the open lawn. That makes any wooded areas adjacent to your property potential hotbeds for ticks. Adding a 3-foot-wide protective barrier of mulch around the perimeter of your yard does double duty. First, it creates a physical barrier that’s dry and sometimes hot, something ticks can’t tolerate. Second, it serves as a visual reminder to anyone in your household to be especially careful once they step past the perimeter. Borders made up of gravel, rubber mulch, or dry wood chips are ideal. Caution: damp shredded mulch is not good as it provides an ideal environment ticks love.
- Mow the lawn frequently.Ticks like a cooler environment, and taller blades of grass cast shadows creating shade. This means leaving your lawn a little longer in tick prone areas is not ideal. Healthy grass height is around 4 to 4½ inches, which can then be cut down to about 3 inches with each mowing. This strategy promotes healthy growth and an inhospitable environment for ticks. However, cutting grass too short (1-2”) will send the grass into a panic and it will grow too tall, too fast, and suffer from a weak root structure, or even burn out completely in the heat of the summer. Ideally, keep up with mowing and don’t let the grass grow to a height of 5 or 6 inches. If you do miss a week and the grass gets tall, use the bagging attachment if possible, because leaving clippings behind can also create the perfect environment for ticks.
- Stack wood neatly and in a dry area.Ticks can often be found crawling around sloppy woodpiles in shaded areas. If you keep the wood neatly stacked and in a spot that gets some sun, it’ll dry out faster and discourage ticks from taking up residence. Also, woodpiles tend to attract small animals, and ticks will indiscriminately hitch a ride on everything from robins and finches to mice and chipmunks.
- Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees. Significantly fewer ticks are found in well-trimmed grass than in wooded areas. This means it's best to keep the kids' play area surrounded by short, well-trimmed grass and away from shaded areas that give ticks cover from dry heat.
- Discourage unwelcome animals from entering your yard by constructing fences. While ticks like to latch on to humans, they’re also happy to feed off of many other animals, so reducing the numbers of animals in your yard will likely reduce the number of ticks. Deer and mice are the most common wildlife that carries ticks, so taking steps to discourage these visitors is an easy way to keep ticks away. In addition to fencing to keep wildlife out, choose plants that deer won't eat, clean up trash so it does not attract mice, clean underneath bird feeders so there is no food available and use other deterrents as needed to remove these tick transporters from your yard.
- Remove any debris from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.Ticksthrive in moist, shaded areas, so cleaning up any items that create this environment will help reduce the tick population. Pick up discarded pots and other items and stack them neatly.Also look for items such as piles of bricks, stones, and lumber. It is very important to clean your yard regularly in the spring and summer as it’s their prime growing and breeding season.
There is no single approach that will eliminate every tick from your yard. Ideally, a comprehensive strategy using the basic property management actions described above and a quality yard spray (see Barefoot Yard Tick and Mosquito Spray) is your best bet for a family friendly yard that is tick-free this spring and summer season.