If you are like me, spring can’t come soon enough. After winter, it is good to see the sun appear and begin warming up the world around us. Living in the Eastern half of the United States, spring comes slowly here compared to many of our western states. I love to see the newly budding trees, the greening grass and the tulips pushing up through the ground.
There is much to love about this time of year and yet, with any season, there are a few things that make it a little less pleasant. Here in central Virginia we deal with a large tick population each year. While ticks are less active during the winter months, come spring, ticks come out in full force.
If you’re a homesteader, ticks can become a real nuisance and threat to the health and well being of your animals, especially larger animals and your cats and dogs. Even if you don’t live on a homestead, you and your animals can be at risk. Ticks pose a threat to humans as well, as they don’t really care if the host is animal or human. If you have blood, you’re a target.
Every state is going to be a little different as to what kind of ticks are present in your area and how prolific they will be. You can check with your local agriculture extension office for specific tick information related to your area.
Read more: Beneficial insects that are your friends. [Hint: It’s not ticks.]
What Are Ticks?
Ticks are external parasites that are a part of the mite family. Ticks require a blood meal to develop and produce eggs. They feed only on blood to survive, nothing else. Because of this need for a blood meal, ticks seek out a warm blooded host (for the most part) to feed from.
What Kind of Ticks Pose a Risk to Animals and Humans?
The list of of tick species is fairly long, but only about eleven species of tick pose health risks to animals and humans.
- Deer Tick, Dog Tick, Lone Star Tick, Brown Dog Tick, Wood Tick, Western Blacklegged Tick, European Wood Tick, Gulf Coast Tick & Winter Tick.
In my area the deer tick is most prevalent and carries the risk of Lyme disease. However, It takes around 36 hours before the tick has consumed enough blood meal to transmit Lyme disease. This is why it is so important to find and remove ticks before they can become attached for a long period of time. If a tick is found within 24 hours of attaching to a person or animal, it is unlikely it could have transmitted enough of the bacterium to cause Lyme disease.
Learn more: The Best Natural Mosquito Repellent Recipes
What are Best Practices to Avoid Ticks?
- If possible, stay away from overgrown fields or wooded areas with tall plants, grass, or underbrush. Stay on well maintained paths.
- Wear light colored clothing so you can see ticks easier if they do hitch a ride. Keep exposed skin to a minimum as much as possible. You can even tuck your pant legs into your socks to keep them from gaining access to your legs.
- Use insect repellent on your clothing to help discourage ticks. You can find commercial repellent at most any store. Organic insect repellent can often be found at your local health food store. Our family prefers using all natural lavender bug spray produced by a local lavender farm. Personally, we have had good results with this repellent. As with any repellent, be sure to check labels carefully and read all warnings.
- Keep the areas around your house clear of underbrush, wood piles, rock piles and anywhere that ticks could nest in.
- Check your animals often for ticks. We are especially vigilant around eyes, ears and heads of our animals. Ticks can be tiny and hide really well. We personally use a mixture of witch hazel, Lavender oil, citronella oil and Lemongrass oil as a natural repellent on our animals – being careful to not get in and around the eyes and nose.
- If you have a homestead, introduce a natural predator to the area: The guinea fowl. Guinea’s mainly feed on worms, bugs, seeds and berries. Unlike chickens, they will not scratch up your flowerbeds and yard but will go around picking up all the bugs they find. We saw a great reduction in our tick population around our farm once we introduced the guinea’s to the area.
Learn more: Pest-free Gardening With All Natural Bug Killers
What Should I Do If I Find a Tick?
Anytime you have been out in the woods, in the pasture or near tall grasses, you want to check yourself, your kids, and animals for ticks. If you find a tick, don’t freak out. If the tick has already attached to the skin or scalp, take a pair of pointed tip tweezers and gently grasp the tick as close to the skin as you can. Gently pull the tick from the area it is attached too. The key here is to get ALL of the tick if you can.
If you are having trouble removing a tick or are concerned that you did not get all of the tick, a trip to your doctor’s office may be in order.
Once you have removed the tick, cleanse the area with rubbing alcohol. You will want to keep an eye on the area. The area may be a bit red when you remove the tick, but the redness should fade. If it does not, and appears to get worse, see your doctor for additional care.
Get out and Live!
Even though ticks are one of the few things we don’t like about spring, summer or fall, it is not a reason to avoid the beautiful outdoors. Get out and enjoy the sunshine, plant in your garden, hang out with the family and take in the beauty around you. By taking proper precautions and being an little extra vigilant, you can enjoy all those things despite the critters that crawl.
Are there a lot of ticks where you live? What kind of precautions do you take or find most effective against ticks?