We all like to think that if we live in the suburbs, we’re far away from wildlife and critters. But the truth is, while most of the animals that live near your suburban home are a lot smaller, there are still a lot of them! Some are harmless, like butterflies and dragonflies. Some are useful, like earthworms. But some can be harmful, like ticks.
If you have a tick problem in your yard, then you’re probably desperate to find out how to get rid of them. So let’s take a deep dive into what ticks are, why they’re bad news for your pets and family, and how you can get rid of ticks in your yard.
Many people think that ticks are insects, but they are actually arachnids. Which means they’re more closely related to spiders than ants.
They’re also parasites, but unlike some parasites (such as tapeworms), they’re external parasites.
Ticks are found in most parts of the world, and there are many different species, but they all survive by sucking blood from people and animals.
Ticks can be hard to spot, even when they are on you because they are very small if they have not fed recently. In fact, the average adult tick is about 3 to 5mm – which is about the size of half a grain of rice.
Some ticks are soft-bodied, and others are hard-bodied, but both expand as they become engorged with blood from their victims.
Like most arachnids, there are several stages to the tick life cycle, namely egg, larvae, nymph and adult.
While most ticks prefer to live in warmer, more humid climates, they are also widely found in colder climates like cancer, where their eggs simply remain dormant during the colder months.
The thought of an arachnid sucking your blood is enough of a reason for most people to view ticks as a problem, but there’s more to it than that.
Ticks also carry a variety of diseases that can affect humans and animals, including typhus, various kinds of tick fever, Lyme disease and Q fever, as well as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and even some types of hemorrhagic fevers.
While the disease that ticks carry depends on the species of tick and the area they live in, ticks can also carry more than one pathogen at a time. So the ticks in your area could carry diseases that are dangerous to you and your pets, even if you’re vaccinated against some of them.
The only good news is that it usually takes a while for a tick to transmit the disease after they have bitten you, so if you take precautions and check yourself for ticks when you come back from an outdoor adventure, you might be able to prevent infection. However, when you’re dealing with diseases that could be fatal to you, your family or your pets, maybe isn’t really what you want to hear!
We’re going to get into how you can get rid of ticks in your own yard shortly, but you also need to know that ticks can live anywhere that there is reasonably long grass and brush. This means every time you go for a hike or biking on a trail; there’s a chance you’re going to be in tick territory. There are several ways you can protect yourself and your children and pets from tick bites, including:
When it comes to tick bites, the most important thing is prevention. While most tick-borne diseases are treatable, some are more difficult to cure. So it’s always best to avoid getting bitten in the first place.
If you have been bitten by a tick, or you find one on yourself, your child or your pet, it’s important to speak to your doctor as soon as possible.
Some tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease have limited windows for treatment and cure. While you might be able to control symptoms, later on, it’s a lot more difficult to cure the disease. So you want to get the right kind of medical attention as soon as possible.
Your doctor will also know more about which kinds of tickborne diseases are common in your area.
If you don’t find a tick but have the classic “target rash” that is associated with Lyme disease, or you or your child or pet is lethargic or has a fever, you should get medical attention too.
Most tick-borne diseases are not fatal to healthy people and animals, but some can be, and the sooner you get the right kind of care, the better your chances of a full recovery will be.
You might think that because your backyard doesn’t have long grass, you don’t have to worry. However, research shows that as many as 75% of confirmed Lyme disease cases are caused by tick bites that happen in your own backyard.
Ticks can live anywhere that there is any kind of vegetation for them to hide in and a food source to keep them alive. So they can very definitely set up house in your backyard.
You might be wondering how ticks could even get into your backyard, especially if you have a privacy fence around the space.
Usually, when ticks find their way into backyards like those, it’s by hitching a ride on another animal. Deer, birds, rodents and rabbits can all carry ticks, and if they happen to drop off in your yard while passing through, they’re very likely to stay for a while.
Since ticks are so small, and since they naturally seek out dark, well-hidden parts of your garden’s vegetation, it can be very hard to spot ticks under normal circumstances, but there are a few tricks you can use to confirm an infestation.
If you have pets and they spend time in your yard, they will usually be the first to find the ticks. Check your pets daily for ticks. They will often hide in the thicker hair near the neck, behind the ears, and in other hard-to-reach spots. Ticks that have been on pets for a while tend to feel like pea-sized lumps under their fur. You might be able to see them quite easily if you have smooth-coated pets, but long hair or wire-haired breeds might require a little more searching.
If you don’t have pets, or they don’t spend time in the area you think might have a tick problem, you can try a technique called “tick dragging.” To do this, you simply take a light-coloured sheet or large piece of fabric and slowly drag it around the area you think the ticks might be in.
When you’re done, lay the fabric down on a flat surface like a deck or driveway, and look for ticks. They will show up as smallish dark brown or black specks. If you find any, you’ve confirmed you have ticks, and you can trap them in a Ziploc bag and destroy them.
The last way to check for ticks is a lot harder. It involves using a flashlight to check in any dark and hidden spots in your yard. Under decks, in crevices in large rocks or in the vegetation are all spots that ticks would love to make their home in, likewise in your bushes and shrubs.
Ticks can be quite hard to spot, but if you do, they will be little dark specks that usually move when light hits them.
If you want to get rid of ticks in your yard, or you just want to use a little extra protection to keep them away, you might want to consider a natural tick repellent.
These repellents might not work if you have a very large tick population, but they can keep stray ticks from becoming a problem. They include:
If you choose to use diatomaceous earth, you can simply sprinkle it around your yard, repeating it every few weeks or after it rains.
If you use essential oils, dilute them in a spray bottle, and spray them wherever ticks might be lurking. You could also make a larger batch and use a yard sprayer to cover larger areas.
If you have tried natural options and they didn’t work as well as you would have liked, or if you are okay with using a chemical option, there are several tick repellents you can purchase from most hardware stores and similar outlets, including:
Sometimes, you need to use stronger and more effective chemicals like these to get rid of ticks. Because ticks are dangerous too, most people feel that the need outweighs the risk of using chemicals, but you should always follow every safety precaution and recommendation very carefully.
Never store any pesticides or chemicals where children and pets can access them either. Many can be deadly if ingested.
Now that you know what ticks are, where they live, why we need to keep them out of our yards, and a few ways to protect ourselves and prevent infestation, it’s time to look at another option. Professional tick removal is a good alternative if you’ve tried commercially available options and still have a problem. Or if you would prefer not to use potentially dangerous chemicals yourself.
Here’s how the professional tick removal process usually works:
The first thing a professional pest control company will do when you report a suspected tick problem confirms that it is indeed ticks you are dealing with. This usually involves visiting your home and inspecting your yard, visually confirming that the pests in question are ticks and possibly even what type of tick.
It’s important to remember that many smaller insects and arachnids can look very similar to an untrained eye, so your pest control specialist needs to make sure they know what they are dealing with.
Once the pest control company knows that they are dealing with ticks, how extensive the problem is, and how large the area that will be treated is, they will be able to give you an estimate of the cost to treat your yard. This will usually also specify how the treatment will be done.
Once you’ve accepted the quote to treat your yard for ticks, the next step is the treatment itself.
The pest control specialist you’re working with will arrange a time to do the treatment, and they will arrive with all the sprayers and other equipment they need to apply all the products they will be using.
It’s worth noting that professional pest control companies usually have access to products that arent’ available to the public, which means they can treat severe infestations that you might not be able to do on your own.
Pest control companies use a variety of liquids, powders and other preparations to treat your yard for ticks.
After the treatment is completed, you will be given instructions about when it’s safe to use your yard again and anything else you need to know about safety and ensuring that your tick problem is resolved.
Often, one application of tick treatment is not enough to completely eliminate the problem. That’s because sometimes, the ticks in your yard have laid eggs that might still hatch. Or you might have a new tick population appear from animals that pass through your yard.
Your pest control company will usually advise you how often you will need follow-up treatments and provide an estimate for these maintenance visits.
If you don’t have the time to inspect and treat your own yard regularly, this is a great way to ensure that your home and yard stay tick-free all the time.
Once you’ve had your yard treated for ticks, it’s a good idea to take steps to make it less attractive to ticks so you don’t get an infestation again, or if you do have the occasional tick, they can’t settle in and create a serious problem.
Some of the steps you can take to make your yard less attractive for ticks include:
While none of these things can guarantee you will never have a tick problem, they can help to keep it in check. Encourage your neighbors to do the same too. If you share boundaries with them, you’ll need to work together to maximize the effect.
As you can see, for a very small pest, there’s a lot to learn about ticks before you can effectively control them in your yard.
Some people are okay with the idea of tackling a tick problem themselves, but some need help. Or you might just have an especially resilient group of ticks in your yard!
No matter what the reason, if you need help with a tick problem in Texas, we’re here to help. Contact the Natran team for more information about how to deal with ticks or for any other pest problem you’re dealing with.
We’re always happy to provide advice and information, schedule an inspection or help you to deal with even the most challenging pest problems.
So if it’s time to take back your yard from dangerous pests like ticks, reach out, this is a problem that can be solved, and we can help you to do just that.