Tips and tricks to avoid ticks and Lyme disease all summer long
Win the battle in your own backyard by practicing these steps to keep nature’s biggest nuisances away.
Keep your pets under control. Cats and dogs can bring ticks into your home and deposit them on your bed, sofa, and just about anywhere they like to curl up. The best solution is to keep cats indoors and check your dog regularly for ticks. Especially concerned pet owners can ask their vet to vaccinate their dog against Lyme along with other preventative measures, such as insecticide lace collars.
Choose deer resistant plants. A single deer can carry hundreds of ticks, so keeping Bambi away from your yard is essential. A good place to start is to look at landscaping options that deer don’t eat, such as bleeding hearts, lavender, mint, buttercups, and black-eyed Susans.
Build that dream patio. It’s simple: ticks inhabit grass and shallow woods, not bluestone patios with four-burner liquid propane grills and tiki bars. Bonus: the more terrace there is, the less lawn there is to mow.
Rake the leaves. To survive the winter, many ticks take shelter under the leaf litter. Deprive them of that pleasure by raking in the fall and staying on top of the yard work.
Check yourself. Whether you’ve hiked the dunes or worked in the garden, the best way to beat ticks is to look for them. Pay special attention to your head and neck, where they can hide under the hair.
Check the check marks
Want to know if the tick you removed from your back carried Lyme bacteria or other pathogens? Send it to TickReport, a service run by UMass Amherst microbiologist Stephen Rich, and you’ll have a response within 24 to 72 hours. Here’s what you need to know:
- Make sure it’s a tick – both adults and nymphs have eight legs – that you pulled from your body. Over the years, Rich has received everything from harmless beetles to sesame seeds.
- TickReport cannot tell you if you have contracted a disease transmitted by ticks; instead, it identifies whether the tick that bit you carried Lyme bacteria or other dangerous pathogens. So, be sure to seek immediate medical attention if you are worried.
- A Ziploc bag works great for storing and sending a tick, and it’s best, says Rich, who once received a large jar of mayonnaise that contained just one tick.
- Before you stamp your tick, check the TickReport website (tickreport.com) to make sure the lab accepts samples. At the time of going to press, he was still on a temporary hiatus related to COVID.
Learn more about New England’s fight against tick-borne diseases.