Outsmart Ticks with Smart Landscaping

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Short grass and bright sunlight can help reduce the tick population in your yard.

The following article is posted with permission from theTick-Borne Disease Alliance.

With experts warning of an abundance of ticks and an increased threat of Lyme and tick-borne diseases this year, spring cleaning should be far more than seeding lawns and planting flowers, advises the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance (TBDA), a national organization that will embark on a quest to develop a diagnostic tool as a first step toward eradicating these diseases. To significantly help reduce the risk of being bitten by infected ticks, TBDA recommends that homeowners and property caretakers create Low-Risk Tick Zones, which can easily be implemented and at minimal cost.

“When making your home and property more attractive this time of year for family, friends and neighbors, it’s equally important to make it less attractive to ticks,” said Robert Oley, who serves on the TBDA’s Board of Directors and holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. “With an estimated three quarters of all Lyme disease cases acquired from ticks picked up during activities around the home, such as playing outside, picnicking or gardening, creating Low-Risk Tick Zones should be a priority in everyone’s landscaping and gardening plans.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease is the most common and fastest growing vector-borne, infectious disease in the country. Its increasingly virulent co-infections contribute to what is a major public health problem. At this time, there are no vaccines in use to prevent Lyme disease or the co-infections in the United States. Available diagnostic tools have not been proven to be 100 percent reliable.

Oley, who specializes in ticks, tick-borne diseases and their prevention, suggests following TBDA’s simple TICK-OFF checklist as an easy, inexpensive guide to creating safer, outdoor areas around the home.

Landscape Checklist to Prevent Tick-Borne Diseases

  • Tidy up by removing leaves, branches and debris, which create hiding places for ticks and their hosts.
  • Install 3-foot wide gravel or wood chip barriers along the edges of stone walls, ornamental gardens and woodlot perimeters.
  • Create gravel or wood chip pathways linking the house to frequently used outside areas.
  • Keep woodpiles and bird feeders far away from the home as they attract rodents which ticks feed on.
  • Open up areas to direct sunlight and keep lawns cut short to reduce the humid environment that ticks thrive in.
  • Form play and recreational areas at least 10 feet away from wooded edges; place playsets on wood chip beds and in sunny areas.
  • Fully use patio and non-grass or non-vegetative areas as much as possible.

When working or playing outside, Oley also recommends wearing clothing that is treated with the synthetic chemical permethrin, which repels and kills ticks. Permethrin has been approved by the EPA as safe for use on clothing apparel. Treat your own footwear and clothing (good for five washings) with a permethrin spray, or purchase pre-treated clothing (good for 70 washings) with the Insect Shield label from retailers. Wearing an EPA-approved insect repellent on exposed skin will provide added protection, but by itself does not work nearly as effectively as tick-repellent clothing.

Oley adds that preventive measures inside the home should become part of everyone’s daily routines.

“Always remember to check yourself and your children for ticks, put clothing worn outside in the dryer for at least 30 minutes to kill any ticks crawling on them, and shower within an hour of being outdoors,” says Oley. “And promptly and properly remove any ticks that you may find.”

While the latest statistics about Lyme and tick-borne diseases can be disturbing, says Oley, these simple outdoor and indoor measures can provide added protection against these diseases.

The Tick-Borne Disease Alliance is dedicated to raising awareness, supporting research and promoting advocacy to find a cure for tick-borne diseases, including Lyme. As part of its efforts to raise funds to support much-needed research, TBDA will embark on a quest to develop a diagnostic tool as a first step toward eradicating the diseases. Working with others in the tick-borne disease community nationwide, TBDA seeks to raise public awareness through education and create a unified voice for advocacy regarding the current epidemic in order to make a real difference. Follow the TBDA on Facebook at and on Twitter.

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