This year is going to be one of the worst on record for ticks, and not just in the Southeast. At least one variety of the disease-transmitting pest has been found in all of the lower 48 states, according to the centers for disease control and prevention. And a lab at Cornell University has identified twenty six species of the pest along the east coast alone, more than just the deer ticks that are associated with lime disease. Outside of hiring a professional, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the tick friendliness of your yard.
“Tick control is mostly about wildlife,” says Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, coordinator of New York State’s Integrated Pest Management Program at Cornell. “If you have an open yard where animals can enter, you’re almost certainly going to have ticks.”
One way to know for sure is to perform what’s called a tick drag. Cut a 5-inch-square swatch of fabric and tie it to an 18-inch-long pole or stick. Holding the pole, drag the fabric along tall grass or weeds, particularly near a woodland edge of your lawn. Ticks will typically transfer themselves to the swatch. If the trial confirms their presence, follow these three steps to deal with them effectively.
Many species of tick favor the shady, cool cover of woodlands instead of your open lawn. This means any wooded areas around your property are a potential hotbed for ticks. A three foot wide barrier of mulch between the trees and your lawn should help with that by creating a physical barrier that’s dry and hot, conditions that the ticks certainly dont favor. Make sure you use mulch made from broad, dry wood chips or bark, and not the damp, shredded mulch that creates the kind of conditions that dicks prefer.
Step two is to make sure to keep your grass short. “Black-legged ticks, the type which transmit Lyme, don’t like dry, hot environments,” Gangloff-Kaufmann says. Because taller blades of grass cast a shadow and create shade, leaving your lawn a little shaggy is a bad idea in tick-rich areas. Cut your grass to as low as two inches, and be sure to keep up with your mowing. Missing a week and letting your grass get tall can invite a large amount of ticks onto your property in a short amount of time.
And finally, make sure to trim tall weeds in your grass. “Ticks like to climb to the top of tall grass blades and look for questing opportunities—the chance to grab onto animals like deer or humans,” Gangloff-Kaufmann says. By keeping grass and weeds at bay with a string trimmer, you’ll minimize those chances, making it more difficult for ticks to latch onto you or members of your family, or to travel around your property after hitching a ride on your dog.