I have lived
in Pennsylvania my entire life, gardening and hiking in our county
parks. I am starting to find ticks on myself when I return from
hikes or spending time in my yard. I am concerned about Lyme
disease, and was wondering if there were any steps I can take to
parts of the country – the New England states, parts of Minnesota
and Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – have been
dealing with abundant tick populations and Lyme disease for much
longer than we have in western Pennsylvania. Lyme disease takes it
name from the town of Lyme, Connecticut where the disease was first
identified in the mid-1970’s.
seems that our reprieve from major problems with this pest is over.
People who work outdoors or who spend a lot of time playing in
western Pennsylvania’s natural areas will need to take steps to
protect themselves and their four-legged friends from blacklegged
ticks to minimize the chance of contracting Lyme disease. There are
other species of ticks found in western Pennsylvania, and while they
may not carry Lyme disease, there are other equally serious diseases
that ticks can transmit to you and your pets.
Tick-borne diseases have been on the increase across the United
States. A number of factors contribute to the problem, including:
Increased building in wooded areas, which
increases the chance for contact with ticks
Increased tick populations
An overabundance of deer
Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, and is
transmitted to people, companion animals and wildlife by the
blacklegged or deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). Blacklegged ticks have
a two-year life cycle, starting with females laying eggs in mid-late
spring. Larvae hatch from those eggs in early summer, and attach to
small mammals such as mice and chipmunks or birds to feed, then drop
off to molt into nymphs that will be active the following spring.
Larval activity peaks in late summer. Nymphs are active the
following May, June and July. They also attach to small mammals or
birds, then molt into adults after feeding.
(Peromyscus leucopus) are an important host for the larval and
nymphal stages of blacklegged tick, and also are a primary host for
the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. After larvae and nymphs feed
on infected white-footed mice, they become carriers of the
bacterium. Adult blacklegged ticks become active in fall, and remain
so on warm winter days and again the following spring. They attach
to white-tailed deer to feed. Adult males die after mating, and
adult females die after laying eggs. Although deer are not a source
of the bacterium, they do carry adult ticks into your yard where the
females will lay eggs, increasing the number of tick larvae and
nymphs there. The nymph stage is most likely to transmit Lyme
Blacklegged ticks are most abundant in densely wooded areas and the
edges of woods; ornamental plantings and lawns are less attractive
to them, except where they abut the woods.
There are a number of landscape management practices that can make
your yard less suitable habitat for ticks. If you have a very large
yard, consider managing the portion of it your family uses most to
minimize tick habitat, including walkways, patios, play areas,
gardens and service areas (sheds, trash cans, etc.). These practices
Clean up piles of brush, fallen leaves and remove
weeds and brushy growth at woodland edges.
Keep the grass mowed regularly through the
Restrict the use of ground covers such as
pachysandra in areas used heavily by the family and pets.
Discourage rodent activity by keeping grass,
brush and weeds trimmed, cleaning up leaf piles, and by sealing
deer from your yard through the use of
fencing and deer-resistant plantings. Avoid feeding birds near
the house since deer (and mice) are attracted to bird feeders,
especially in winter. Excluding deer reduces the number of
egg-laying adult ticks brought into your yard.
Move children’s play sets and sand boxes away
from woodland edges. Use hardwood mulch around swing sets and
sand boxes rather than grass or other vegetation.
Hire an arborist to thin the crowns of shade
trees and limb them up to allow more sun in and to reduce
humidity, which makes an area less attractive to ticks.
Create borders at woodland edges and around stone
walls with wood chips or gravel. Three feet or wider borders are
Use labeled acaracides as a targeted barrier treatment around the perimeter of areas used most by your
family. Active ingredients used to control ticks in the
landscape include bifenthrin (Ortho Home Defense Max),
cyfluthrin (Bayer Power Force Multi-Insect Killer), lambda-cyhalothrin
(Spectracide Triazide Concentrate), and permethrin (Bonide Eight
Insect Control). Remember to read and follow all label
directions for most effective control and safety.
Excluding deer from your yard
addition to landscape alterations, remember to protect yourself and
your family by wearing long pants tucked into light-colored socks
(ticks will crawl up your legs!) and closed-toe shoes when working
or playing in your yard or hiking in the woods. Light colored
clothing makes it easier to see ticks since larvae are about the
size of the period at the end of this sentence, and nymphs are not
much bigger. DEET or permethrin-based repellents, used according to
label directions, provide the best protection from ticks of all
kinds. Protect your four-legged friends with products your
veterinarian can recommend to keep them from bringing ticks into
your home and to protect them from Lyme disease – they are