Ticks are very small bugs that can spread Lyme and various other diseases through their bites. Deer ticks live in shady, moist areas at ground level. They will cling to tall grass, brush and shrubs, usually no more than 18-24 inches off the ground. They also live in lawns and gardens, especially at the edges of woods and around old stone walls.
Once a tick gets on the skin, it usually climbs up the body until it reaches a protected area, such as under clothing.
In tick-infested areas, your best protection is to avoid contact with soil, leaf litter and vegetation. However, if you hike, camp, hunt, work or otherwise spend time in the outdoors, you can still protect yourself:
- Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily.
- Wear enclosed shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots, and shirt into pants.
- Check clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors.
- Consider using insect repellent on your clothing. *
- Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails. Walk in the center of trails. Avoid dense woods and bushy areas.
- Keep long hair tied back.
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after going indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that may be on you.
- Do a final, full-body tick check at the end of the day (also check children and pets), and remove ticks promptly.
- Follow your vet's suggestion for regular flea and tick prevention treatment.
*Personal Protection Using Pesticides: There are two classes of products that you might see on the shelf. Products that contain DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus and IR3535 are repellants. These products interfere with the host-finding abilities of biting insects, making you hard to find. Products that contain permethrin and some plant-based oils are pesticides that kill these organisms on contact. They can be used to treat clothing, hats, shoes, and gear (backpacks, tents, etc.), and should never be applied to the skin for safety reasons. Make sure any product you apply is labeled as a tick repellent and ensure you read and closely follow the label directions. Please visit the New York State Pesticide Administration Database (NYSPAD) to search for personal insect repellents that are currently registered in New York.
Modify Your Home Surroundings
Most tick species prefer high humidity and damp areas. They also need a host nearby to feed on. Follow these steps to limit the occurrence of ticks near your home:
- Reduce shady and damp areas in the yard.
- Replace plants that deer love to browse with deer-resistant plants.
- Remove leaf litter from field edges near wooded or unmanaged areas.
- Remove waste, secure and remove excess seed from bird feeders.
- Avoid wood piles, stone walls or other structures that would shelter mice.
- Establish a three foot gravel buffer zone between wooded areas and fields.
- Install a deer fence to help reduce deer from dispersing ticks.
- Consider pesticide applications if your risk from ticks is unacceptable. Consider using plant based, least toxic pesticides first. If you have pets, there's a good chance at some point you may have to deal with the control of ticks. Be sure to read the entire pesticide label and follow the directions closely!
Hiring a Professional Pesticide Applicator to Control Ticks?
DEC registers pesticide products, certifies pesticide applicators and registers pesticide businesses. A certified pesticide applicator is trained, keeps up-to-date with the latest technologies, and will have the knowledge and experience to recommend an IPM strategy that incorporates physical or cultural pest control measures, and if necessary, least toxic pesticide controls.
Application Treatments: applicators certified in Categories 3A (Turf and Ornamentals), 3B (Turf) and 8 (Public Health) can apply pesticides to the grounds, turf, trees or shrubs around your property to target ticks. Applicators certified in Category 7A (Structural and Rodent) can apply residual barrier treatments to foundations and outside surfaces of buildings, and the vegetation immediately surrounding buildings only for the purpose of controlling indoor pests.
Tick Management Systems: applicators use tick management systems which are registered pesticides where the applicator is targeting rodents. These tick management systems may consist of a rodent tube containing cotton that is soaked in a pesticide, or a rodent bait station with a wick containing a contact pesticide. Mice are often an intermediate host for ticks and therefore an important link in the spread of Lyme disease and other tick borne diseases. With these tick management systems, the idea is that the pesticide impregnated materials may kill the ticks in the nest or directly on rodents. Applicators certified in Categories 7A and 8 are allowed to place these bait systems.
- New York State Department of Health (DOH) website -preventing risks from tick borne diseases and pesticide exposure
- Cornell New York State Integrated Pest Management program website - tips for identifying ticks and protecting yourself from ticks
- U.S. EPA - Repellents: Protection against Mosquitoes, Ticks and Other Arthropods