Don't let down your guard quite yet! Summer may be over, but the ticks are still lurking. To protect your family and pets, even in your own yard, it's best to stay vigilant until the first frost. Ticks can be active any time the temperature is above 45 degrees F, so for areas with mild winters, they're a year-long menace.
If one is known by the company one keeps, then ticks are part of a nasty lot. They're related to mites, spiders and scorpions. Most adult ticks are the size of a sesame seed, while a nymph is about the size of a poppy seed.
Ticks like to hang out several feet off the ground in tall grass and in low brush around wooded areas. Since they can neither fly nor jump, ticks attach themselves through direct contact with people and pets passing through the vegetation.
Once they've found a target, they crawl under clothes, hair or fur and attach themselves to skin. Some ticks have the uncanny ability to detect people up to 18 feet away!
Put Out the Unwelcome Mat
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are some landscaping tricks that you can use to reduce the number of ticks in your yard and in the area around your home.
Remove fallen leaves and clear any tall grass or brush from around your house and at the edges of your yard, especially near pathways and walkways. Keep your lawn well maintained and mowed short. Trim low-lying bushes to let in as much sunlight as possible. This will help keep your yard from becoming a shelter for small mammals that may act as hosts for ticks. Put a three-foot-wide, three-inch-deep barrier of wood chips or gravel between your lawn and any woods to keep the ticks from coming into your yard.
Because white-footed mice and some birds can be hosts for ticks, don't put birdbaths or birdhouses on your property during tick season.
Make sure your lawn chairs, swing sets and playhouses are in sunny, dry areas. You may want to place mulch or woodchips around these areas.
Dress to Repel
When you're going to be outside for a while, be sure to wear light-colored socks and pants to help spot ticks more easily.
Tuck your pant legs into your socks to reduce the risk of ticks getting under your clothing. And before you go outside, spray your socks and pant cuffs with OFF! Deep Woods® Aerosol repellent
OFF! Deep Woods® repellents
are also available in a pump-spray and as convenient towelettes. All contain 25% DEET, which will provide tick protection for an extended period of time.
Before you come back indoors, be sure to check your clothes and gear for ticks.
Protecting Your Pets
Try to keep your pets in the middle of your yard, away from the high grass and brush. You minimize the risk of a tick attaching itself to your pets if you don't let them run loose through the woods.
A tick attached to your pet won't infect a person while it's clinging to your pet; however, keep in mind that a loose tick can fall off and find you as a new host.
Ticks like warm areas, so look under your pet's legs, in the ears, between the toes and in folds in the skin. Many pet stores carry fine-toothed combs that are helpful in lifting ticks out of a cat or dog's fur before they can attach.
DEET-based repellents are not recommended or approved for use on pets. Consult your veterinarian for additional advice.
What if You Find a Tick?
Generally, ticks can transmit diseases with in 24 hours of beginning to feed on their host, so carefully check your family members and pets whenever they've been outdoors in wooded areas.
If you do find a tick attached to a person or a pet, remove it right away with tweezers, preferably needle nose. Grasp the tick's head as close to the skin as possible and pull the tick straight out, being careful not to twist or squeeze the body because this can cause part of the tick to remain embedded in the skin.
If you can't remove the tick successfully, call your doctor or vet to find out what to do.