Ticks can be a nuisance, and in some cases, they can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Here are some ways to get rid of ticks.
In the mosquito and tick control business, we get asked some pretty cool questions, like “What animals eat ticks?” “Do ticks like water?” and “How do ticks breathe?”
OK, maybe these questions only seem cool if you’re all about bugs like we are. But it’s essential that you learn the answers to these and other questions so you can best protect your family from tick-borne disease. These diseases are on the rise, as is the incidence of people seeking medical care for infected tick bites. Between global warming and expanding land development, the chances that your family or pets will be bitten are increasing. It’s important to understand how ticks operate so we can protect ourselves from the dangers they pose. Let’s dive into what not to do and then explore eight trusted ways to get rid of ticks.
What Not to Do to Get Rid of Ticks
Tick and mosquito control is crucial. Tick bites are not only dangerous but also occur in a rather sneaky way. The tick inserts a numbing agent when it bites, so you won’t feel it. But the longer a tick feeds, the greater the chance of contracting Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or other tick-borne diseases.
When a tick bites, it buries its head under its host’s skin to drink blood for days. Brace yourself. It gets worse. If you remove a tick incorrectly, it vomits into your bloodstream, and its mouthparts become detached, remaining in the wound. Blech! Unfortunately, there are a lot of inaccurate tick-removal tips out there, and they range from ineffective to dangerous. So, let’s start by identifying how not to get rid of ticks once they bite.
When a tick bites you, do not try to remove it with any of these methods:
- Touching it with a hot pin or match
- Coating it with petroleum jelly
- Painting it with nail polish
These strategies try to get the tick to back out of the wound voluntarily. Petroleum jelly or nail polish supposedly makes it impossible for the tick to breathe, as it covers their back legs, which — crazy enough — is where their breathing tubes are located! Breathing through tubes behind their back legs makes it easy for the tick to burrow its head into the host’s skin to feed for three to ten days without coming up for air. However, covering their legs won’t usually cut off their breathing. They breathe just one to 15 times an hour, and they can survive up to 72 hours underwater by breathing oxygen trapped in the tiny hairs on their body. Amazing! So, suffocation is not an effective way to get rid of ticks. Luckily, there are better ways to go about protecting yourself and your family.
How to Check Your Yard for Ticks
The first plan of action for properly removing ticks is identifying where they are before they get a chance to cause significant harm. It’s no longer safe to assume you’ll only encounter ticks in the mountains or the woods. Ticks are increasingly found in suburbs and cities, so you very well might have ticks in your yard. There is a simple way to find out — before you get bitten. It’s called the tick drag.
No, the tick drag is not a new dance craze. (How would that go?) It’s a way to determine whether you have a tick infestation on your property. To make your tick drag, you will need the following supplies:
- A white towel
- A dowel rod 2-3 feet long
- Two four-foot lengths of string
Loop the towel over the dowel rod. Next, tie one length of string to both ends of the rod. Finally, connect the second piece of string to the middle of the one attached to the rod. Presto! You have an official tick drag! Now, walk slowly through the yard, dragging it as you go. Adult ticks will grab ahold, and you’ll be able to see them against the white towel.
Remove any ticks from the towel. Don’t squish them, and don’t flush them down the toilet. Instead, put them into an airtight container like a ziplock baggie, or tape them to an index card. You can then add isopropyl alcohol to kill the ticks.
A tick drag won’t find all the ticks on your property, but it can tell you when you have an infestation.
Check Yourself, Family, and Pets for Ticks
Time is of the essence with ticks. Find them soon enough, and you can prevent biting from taking place. The longer a tick remains in place after biting, the greater the chance it will transmit whatever disease it may be carrying.
Thoroughly examine yourself, your family members, and your pets every time they return from time spent in tick country. Ticks can be found in mountains and foothills, wooded areas, brush and grass by the beach, and your own backyard.
How to Check Pets for Ticks
To check your pets for ticks, gently run your fingers through their fur, feeling for any small bumps. Pay particular attention to the following areas:
- Inside and around the ears
- Around the eyes
- Around the neck
- Behind the front legs
- Behind and between the back legs
- Around the tail
- Between the toes
How to Inspect Yourself and Your Family Members for Ticks
Protect your family from tick-borne diseases by examining yourself and your family members for ticks. Taking a shower is a great way to wash away unattached ticks. To check yourself or others for embedded ticks, pay close attention to the following areas:
- In the hair
- In and around the ears
- Under the arms
- Inside the belly button
- Around the waist
- Between the legs
Promptly removing ticks provides protection against disease and prevents a tick infestation from developing in your home.
How to Remove an Embedded Tick Safely
Mosquitoes and ticks can both transmit nasty diseases when they bite, so mosquito and tick control is a form of preventative health care. It’s critical to remove ticks early and safely. The longer the tick remains embedded, the more blood it drinks, and the greater the chance of contracting a disease from it. But you must take great care when removing an embedded tick to prevent it from regurgitating or losing its head (literally).
These are the steps to remove embedded ticks properly:
- Using clean, fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
- Gripping firmly, use steady pressure to draw the tick out. Do not twist or jerk, as that could cause mouthparts to pop off and be left behind.
- Set the tick in an airtight container or ziplock bag for future testing. Alternatively, tape the tick to an index card.
- Clean the site with rubbing alcohol, and then wash the area with soap and water.
Never squish a tick, which can release and spread bacteria. Instead, label the tick’s container or card with the bite date and the location where you encountered it. Symptoms typically develop within three to 14 days after a tick bite. If you get sick, having the tick for testing can give your healthcare provider valuable information.
Preventing Tick Bites
Mosquito and tick control is all about preventing those bloodsucking bites in the first place. The following are effective ways you can get rid of ticks in your yard:
1. Mow Frequently
Ticks climb to the top of long grass and shrubs to “hunt” for passing animals. Keeping the grass short and shrubs maintained is a great way to get rid of them.
2. Do Not Overwater
Do ticks like water? You bet they do! Like all life forms, ticks need water to survive. While they cannot swim, they need to drink and are attracted to moist, damp places. So, minimizing those conditions on your property will make it less enticing to them.
3. Fix Leaky Faucets and Irrigation
Particularly in areas with drought, puddles and wet soil attract ticks, so checking faucets and irrigation systems for leaks and fixing any issues is a wise preventative measure.
4. Repair Fences
Ticks require animals or people to feed on to survive. So, do all you can to keep tick-carrying wildlife out of your yard. But what about possible predators? What animals eat ticks? Ticks do have natural predators, namely ants, spiders, birds, squirrels, chipmunks, Guinea fowl, chickens, and possums. But the birds and animals that eat ticks also carry them, so welcoming these predators can be self-defeating.
5. Surround the Yard with a Dry Moat
If your yard backs up to a wooded area, create a 3-foot wide dry border that ticks won’t want to cross. Use gravel or dry wood mulch. This deters wildlife and prevents slow-moving ticks from crawling in on their own.
6. Use Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a fine white powder made from the fossilized remains of diatoms — tiny aquatic organisms. DE has many uses. For ticks, DE is deadly. The powder feels soft to the touch but contains teensy sharp edges that score the hard shell of any insect. Then, it rapidly dehydrates the tick or insect, killing it naturally and efficiently. Take care when using DE on your property. It is not safe for dogs or cats to inhale.
Dust a fine layer of DE around your home’s foundations and in tall grasses or under shrubs and trees. Repeat the treatment monthly, and replenish after rainfall.
7. Treat Clothing with Permethrin
Before camping, hiking, or exploring the woods, spray your clothing, tent, and camping gear with a permethrin spray, an effective tick repellent.
8. Hire Professional Mosquito and Tick Control
Professional mosquito and tick control is often the best way to protect your family from these bloodsucking pests.
Mosquito and tick control is essential for health, safety, and comfort. Taking these steps to get rid of disease-carrying pests can go a long way in helping to protect you, your family, and your pets from harm.