By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Ticks are nasty little pests that feed on the blood of vertebrates – including you and your pets. If you’re anxious to learn about preventing ticks or you want to know how to get rid of ticks, read on for more info.
Ticks can carry lyme disease and other of dangerous diseases, and although there are several types of ticks, they all have eight legs and rounded bodies. Contrary to popular belief, ticks don’t jump or fly and they don’t fall from trees. However, they wait on convenient places such as brush, shrubs or blades of grass, where they are primed to grasp warm bodies that walk by. Usually, they begin on the lower legs, then work their way up the body until they find a handy place to dine.
It is for this reason that tick control for yards and gardens is important. If possible, make an effort to get rid of ticks naturally. Natural control is safer for people, pets and the environment, and natural techniques are generally much more effective than pesticides.
If you notice ticks, spray or dust the borders of your yard with a product containing pyrethrins, which are natural insecticides produced by pyrethrum daisies. Some products may consist of a synthetic compound derived from the natural substance. Additionally, you can treat areas around doghouses or kennels, as well as shrubbery and grassy or brushy areas.
When it comes to ticks, the old adage is true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keep in mind that ticks are most prevalent in the 3- to 4-foot perimeter surrounding your yard. This is the high risk zone that requires the most attention. Your goal is to make this area as unfriendly to ticks as possible.
Begin by removing brush and debris in the tick zone, then place a thick layer of gravel or mulch over the zone to create a barrier between your lawn and the outer world. Locate children’s play areas and picnic or recreational areas safely away from the perimeter. Consider placing a layer of mulch made from recycled rubber or cedar chips under swing sets to prevent abrasions to tender knees and elbows.
The following tips on preventing ticks can also help with tick control in yards:
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Eliminating a tick infestation will mean treating the 3 places ticks are most commonly found: your pets, your home, and your yard. We recommend you begin with your pets and then move on to your home, then your yard. Failing to treat all three areas will likely lead to failure and can result in an even worse infestation. Luckily, tick treatment follows the same steps no matter the tick type or species.
Read our guide below to learn how to treat for ticks. Not sure if you have a tick? Read our guide on what ticks look like to be sure you have the right pest.
The first step in getting rid of ticks is to treat the pets and animals that live on your property. When choosing a tick treatment for your pet, it is important to take their species, age, weight, and health into consideration. Always read the label of the product to be sure you can use it on your pet.
There are 5 ways to treat your pets for ticks: tick and flea drops, tick and flea sprays, insecticide baths, medicated collars, and preventative medication. Consult your veterinarian to determine which treatment path is best for your pet.
Spot-on products, also known as pet tick and flea drops, are a popular choice of tick treatment because they are quick and convenient to use and they do not cause much stress or disruption to pets. Tick and flea drops typically come in formulas for dogs and cats and should not be used on animals younger than 12 weeks old.
It is very important that you get the product directly on the animal's skin for it to work properly. Most spot-on treatments direct the user to part the pet's hair between the shoulder blades and squeeze out the entire contents directly onto the skin. Applying the product between the animal's shoulder blades will usually prevent the animal from licking the application spot.
Ticks will start to die within 24 hours of the application of drops. Some ticks may die while still attached to your animal. It is important to follow your veterinarian's instructions on how to remove ticks using tweezers. Most drop treatments should be reapplied every 4-6 weeks to maintain control. As always, consult the product label and your veterinarian to be sure a product is suitable to use on your pet.
A flea and tick bath with medicated shampoo will offer an immediate kill of the ticks that are on the animal. Be sure to read the label of the shampoo as many products have species or age restrictions, and therefore might not be suitable for your pet.
The downside to using a flea and tick medicated bath is that most animals hate bathing and can become stressed. It is important to note that flea and tick baths only kill the ticks that are on the animal at the time of the bath. Most shampoos do not prevent further infestations.
Some ticks may die while still attached to your animal. It is very important that you follow your veterinarian's instruction on how to remove ticks using tweezers.
Tick sprays provide a quick kill of ticks and short-term protection against re-infestation. Tick sprays are also a good alternative for pets that are terrified of baths. Pet tick sprays are available in both aerosol cans and squirt bottles.
To use tick spray, read the product label to determine how much spray should be used for the size of your animal. Wearing gloves, spray the animal and rub the spray into the animal's coat. Some sprays may have a strong odor, which could upset the pet (or its owner!). The odor should disappear within a few hours.
As always, be sure to consult the product label for age and species restrictions.
After treating your dog or cat for ticks, use a medicated collar. Flea and tick collars, like those from Seresto, provide 8 months of prevention and treatment against parasites like ticks. Ticks are eliminated within 48 hours of use.
Your veterinarian may also prescribe a monthly tick prevention medication for your pet. Contact your vet for more information.
If you have spotted even one tick in your home, we highly recommend you treat for ticks. Depending on the severity of the infestation, it can take weeks or even months to fully eliminate ticks from the home. By using a mixture of insecticides, you can prevent re-infestation.
There are a variety of indoor tick products to choose from. Liquid insecticides, like Tempo SC Ultra, are often mixed with water in a sprayer and applied around door and window frames, along baseboards, and in hard to reach areas around the home. Aerosol insecticides, like PT Alpine Flea and Bed Bug Aerosol Spray, are pre-packaged in an aerosol can and sprayed lightly across carpets, furniture, drapes, and pet bedding. Tick dusts, like CimeXa Insecticide Dust, are applied around door and window frames, in cracks and crevices, along baseboards, and in hard to reach areas such as under the sink, after an insecticide has been used to prevent re-infestation.
All tick treatment products are to be used on the cracks, crevices, and voids of your home and should not be broadcast sprayed along your floors or walls.
We highly recommend the addition of an Insect Growth Regulator, or IGR, to your indoor tick treatment plan. IGRs act as birth control for ticks, preventing immature ticks from reaching sexual maturity and repopulating. Some insecticides have an IGR built-in while others require the addition of an IGR when mixed with water in a sprayer. Read the label of your product to determine if an insecticide includes an IGR, or give our customer service team a call at 1-866-581-7378 to learn more.
Use at least 1 insecticide and 1 IGR, if not all of the product types mentioned above, to control ticks indoors. Or, purchase an indoor flea and tick kit to receive the products you need in one discounted package.
Remember, ticks are biologically programmed to climb upward to look for their next host. Keep this in mind when treating your home. Be sure to check the backs and arms of furniture when treating for ticks.
Re-treat as often as the product labels indicate until there are no more signs of ticks in the home. It may take several treatments to eliminate ticks from the home so have patience and be diligent.
We recommend using two products to combat ticks in your yard, a liquid insecticide and an insect growth regulator, or IGR. The liquid insecticide will kill adult ticks while the IGR will prevent immature ticks from reaching sexual maturity and reproducing, preventing a re-infestation.
We have assembled an outdoor flea and tick kit to make selecting and purchasing the right products for the job easy and convenient. Click here to learn more.
To treat your yard for ticks, mix an insecticide with an IGR in a sprayer and add water. Follow the instructions on the labels of the products for the correct water-to-product ratio. Be sure your products are labeled for use on ticks. If you have any questions about which products can be used with ticks, give our customer service team a call at 1-866-581-7378.
Next, spray your yard. You cannot spot treat for ticks outdoors. Instead, you need to spray down the entire yard. Don't forget to spray the grass, bushes, any tall brush or brambles, plants (both on top and the underside of the plant), yard debris, mulch and pine straw, and retaining walls. Be sure to keep pets and children out of the yard until the solution dries.
If you are treating a dense bush or patch of grass, you will need to use more water with the same concentration of the insecticide and IGR mix to ensure you will be able to treat the entire area. Consult product labels for the correct water-to-product mixture.
Outdoor tick treatments do not work overnight. You should see a reduction in ticks a few weeks after you first spray. We recommend repeating treatments every 30 days throughout the season to ensure you catch ticks that were missed during your first spray and to prevent re-infestation. Remember, the time of year and length of tick season varies depending on where you live. Consult your local extension office to learn how long tick season lasts in your state.
By identifying what types of ticks live in your yard, you can better understand what animals may be bringing ticks onto your property. With this knowledge, you can make your yard less hospitable to these host animals.
If you are unable to identify the ticks on your property, you can call your local cooperative extension office. For a small fee, they will be able to identify the ticks that live on your property.
Begin by getting rid of tall grass and brush, especially at the edge of your lawn, to eliminate ticks’ favorite hangout spots. Also clean up leaf litter, and instead of tossing grass clippings and leaves into the garbage, add them to your compost pile and use the rich soil amendment in your garden. After they dry, grass clippings make great mulch that can help keep weeds from sprouting and help the soil retain water.
Ticks can easily set up shop near your home, but these tips can keep them away and help prevent a bite.
There are few things more horrifying than finding a tick crawling on you—except maybe one that’s already bitten and attached. That’s because tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease are on the rise across the U.S., and they come with unpleasant symptoms, like rashes, joint and muscle pain, dizziness, and headaches.
While tick bites can be scary, there are things you can do to prevent them. It’s important to note that ticks can be highly active anywhere between March and November, so you should be vigilant beyond summer if you’re in a known tick habitat, like deciduous forests or grassy areas.
The first step? Avoid the grief altogether by defending your yard, clothes, and skin from the blood-sucking pests. From landscaping tips to the best repellent to full-body checks, here’s how to get rid of ticks once and for all.
The last thing you want to do is make your yard a welcome home for ticks. “Reducing ticks’ habitat around your home is important to minimizing exposure to the pests and diseases,” says Griffin Dill, Ph.D., coordinator of the Cooperative Extension: Tick Lab at The University of Maine. Cut brush back, mow grass short, rake leaves and compost leaf litter, and generally keep the lawn landscaped to prevent ticks from setting up shop.
White-footed mice are actually the vermin that infect ticks with the bacteria that causes disease. Placing tick control tubes around your yard—which are stuffed with cotton that contains the insecticide permethrin—can kill ticks and keep them away. How? Mice (yes, they almost always exist near your landscape) will steal the treated cotton and use it as nesting material, preventing an infestation. Lay down these biodegradable tubes in July or August, and then again the following May, suggests the University of Rhode Island’s Tick Encounter Resource Center.
When it comes to tick-controlling sprays for your yard, know that many kill pollinators like bees, says Dill, so always read the label. While many “natural” tick killers use essential oils, the research on their efficacy isn’t particularly strong. However, it doesn’t hurt to try, and one that gets high ratings from users is cedar oil-based Wondercide Ready-to-Spray Natural Flea and Tick Yard Spray. Just take note that using these sprays should be done in conjunction with other preventive measures.
According the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), constructing a fence in your yard can be a good way to keep deer, stray dogs, and raccoons out of your property. Ticks like to latch onto these animals (they don’t only bite humans), so keeping them away from your yard can prevent the pests from entering your home in the first place.
If you live near a known tick habitat, like a forest or wooded area, tall grasses, or shrubbery, you can prevent ticks from migrating into your yard with the help of a physical blocker. Simply create a three-foot-wide barrier of wood chips or gravel (whatever works best for you) between your lawn and the tick-friendly area to keep the critters at bay, suggests the CDC.
Ticks can hitchhike their way into your home after latching onto your pets, so always examine them after they’ve spent time outdoors—especially if they’ve been rolling around in tick territory. If you do happen to find a bite, here’s the right way to remove a tick from your dog.
Ticks prefer grassy, brushy, and wooded areas, the CDC says, so you up your risk of coming into contact with them if you love to go hiking, trail running, cycling, camping, or even spend time in your backyard garden. Be cautious around wood piles, leaf litter, rock walls, and beach grass, too. While you can’t stop ticks from setting up shop in areas outside of your property, knowing your surroundings will remind you to be more diligent about the preventive measures below.
Repellents that contain at least 20% DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus keep ticks off your skin, because they may disrupt the tick’s sensory organ that detects heat and odors. Repellents with a lower percentage are just as effective, but will need to be reapplied more often (go no higher than 30%). Follow the listed instructions and only apply directly to your skin when the label specifically says to do so. OFF!, Sawyer, and Repel are all great brands to look for—just make sure your repellent is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. Check out our top tick repellents here.
Tick nymphs are the size of poppy seeds and can reach you by crawling up your shoes. However, one study from the CDC found that various types of ticks (including ones that carried diseases like Lyme) died in less than a minute after coming in contact with with permethrin-treated clothing, and those that survived couldn’t move around as easily. So look for a product with 0.5% permethrin, like Sawyer’s Premium Insect Repellent and apply to your clothes and shoes only, says the CDC. It’s also great for gear (like tents and backpacks) if you’re planning on a camping trip or hike.
“Although ticks can and do attach to any part of the body, there are certain parts they’re more commonly found, including in the hairline and in tucked-away places like armpits, groin, and behind the knees,” says Dill. Check your whole body after being outdoors, but give these places extra attention, as well as in and around the ears, in your belly button, and around the waist. (Not sure what a tick bite looks like? These pictures can help you identify one.)
You’re probably sweaty anyway, so you may as well freshen up. Washing up within two hours of being outdoors not only helps you rinse ticks off, but also gives you a good opportunity to check yourself for the creatures.
Go right to the laundry and toss your clothes into the dryer, which will kill any ticks on your clothes, says Dill. If the clothing is clean and dry, letting it tumble on high heat for 10 minutes should do the trick, says the CDC. You may need to go a bit longer if the clothes are damp. And if they need a total wash? Hot water should be used—medium to cold temps won’t get rid of ticks.
If you do happen to find a tick latched onto your body, the safest way to remove it is to use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, per these directions from the CDC:
1. With the tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the surface of your skin as possible.
2. Using steady, even pressure, pull the tick upward in one swift motion without jerking or twisting it.
3. If parts of the tick are left inside your skin, try to remove them with the tweezers. If you’re not able to, simply wash with soap and water and allow your skin to heal.
4. Save the tick in a sealable bag (just throw it in your freezer) in case you experience unusual symptoms in the coming weeks.
Social media is filled with suggestions for household products you can dab on a tick to get it to back out itself, including dish soap, Vaseline, or essential oils. “Often, these remedies do work and the tick backs out—but there’s a concern that it will cause the tick to regurgitate its bodily fluids into the bite site, increasing risk for disease transmission,” says Dill.
Create a border that discourages tic movements from a tic-rich area to your lawn or house. Those areas include places with bushes, overgrown areas, a garden, or other taller plants.
Areas with weeds or natural landscaping are also highly prone areas to have tics.
Or your yard might border natural habitat or wooded areas. Buffer it from the wood ticks in the forest.
To protect against ticks, create a 3-foot border that keeps ticks from crossing. These borders can be made of cedar wood chips or small gravel. Both wood ships and gravel are unpleasant to tics.
They are warm, sunlit, and make rough traveling. Tics simply won’t be able to cross a 3-foot barrier between a tic area and the tick-free area.
Put children’s playgrounds on cedar wood chips, gravel or mulch. This creates a barrier for ticks to travel on and helps to protect the playground.
There is really no way to kill all the ticks on your property. Ticks are so pervasive that you would have to coat your entire backyard with a thick layer of Crawling Insect DE to make sure they don't show up. Another option is to just burn your entire back yard so there is no plant life, just smoldering debris. Neither option would be a reasonable proposal (seriously, they are not good ideas). We are going to talk about some of the small things we can do using DE:
Ticks can be carried by rodents and transferred to your pets. Mark areas where you have seen mice or other rodents (cords of wood, sheds, barns, the garage, or around things you have propped up near your house).
You may want to clean out these areas if they have any debris. If you find holes, fill or patch them. You may also want to reorganize your wood.
Using an applicator, dust with DE, and along the edge of your house (if you have any tall grasses planted alongside your house you will want to target those as well).
Repeat once a month during tick season or if the DE is washed away after heavy rain.
If you have other issues combating ticks around your property and are worried about the safety of your pets and family, follow these tips from the Center for Disease Control:
Ticks love to hang out in piles of leaves so be sure to remove leaf litter from your property. They also enjoy tall grasses and brushes to keep those areas cut back and away from your grass or house.
The CDC recommends keeping a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration into recreational areas mowing the lawn frequently and keeping playground equipment, decks, and patios away from your yard's edge and trees (8 ft).
You also need to be sure that there are no places on your property where rodents and other animals can come and stay. Stack wood neatly and in a dry area to discourages rodents construct fences to keep animals (such as deer, raccoons, and stray dogs) from entering your yard and remove old furniture, mattresses, or trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.
In addition to all this, the CDC recommends using acaricide, a pesticide, once or twice a year if ticks are a more serious concern for your property.
If you follow these steps you will help keep your family and pets safe from diseases spread by ticks this coming season. Be sure to clean out your house, break out the DE, and make a plan to do some landscaping to keep your property free from ticks.
Click these links for information on treating your cat, dogs, and home.
To keep ticks off you, wear long sleeves and long pants when working in the garden in places where ticks might get to you, such as underneath low hanging branches and shrubs or in tall grass. For even better protection, spray sleeves and pant legs with undiluted vinegar -- even better yet, add a few drops of citronella essential oil to the vinegar. Cats can't stand citrus smells, so don't expect Fluffy to sit on your lap before you change. Other plants that repel ticks include lemongrass, thyme and peppermint. Steep one or more of these repellents in full-strength white distilled vinegar for several days. If the idea of spraying your clothes with vinegar doesn’t appeal to you, soak a bandanna, rag or other piece of cloth in the vinegar, then tie it around your ankles and wrists before going out to work in the yard.