Rhode Island is about as close to the Lyme disease epicenter as you can get, just a short drive from Lyme CT. Unlike doctors in other parts of the country who dither for months before zeroing in on Lyme, doctors here have become very adept at diagnosing it, simply because it is so common. Lyme disease is transmitted by the deer tick, Ixodes scapularis. In early summer, when they are in the nymphal stage, they’re so small it’s ridiculous – the size of poppy seeds.
We gardeners are particularly susceptible, of course, and no matter how thoroughly you check yourself after you’ve been working outdoors, you can still wind up with the disease without seeing a single tick or even the signature “bulls eye rash.”
Lately, cases of another scary tick-borne disease, babesiosis, have become much more prevalent. Babesiosis can be a lot more serious than Lyme Disease, especially in people with weakened immune systems.
So it’s agreed, then, that ticks are a huge drag on every level, and we should do our utmost to keep them from biting us. One tick control product I like (and no, they’re not paying me to write this) is the Damminix “Tick Tube,” because it doesn’t involve spraying your property with chemicals, and it precisely targets the source of the problem – mice. Ticks do not get the Lyme disease they in turn transmit to us from deer. They get it from mice.
The tube system is simple. Cotton which has been treated with the tick killer, permethrin, is stuffed into cardboard tubes. The tubes are placed around the yard, in places where mice like to hang out – like stone walls. The mice grab the cotton and take it back to their nests. The permethrin gets on their fur and ticks that bite them are killed.
24 tubes, enough to protect about half an acre, cost just under $80. This system doesn’t harm the mice, or any other animals or birds in your yard, but it kills ticks. I like this concept.
For all things “tick,” the University of Rhode Island’s TickEncounter Resource Center has lots of great, up-to-the-minute information on ticks, the diseases they cause, where ticks are most numerous, and even their life stages at any given time. The Center’s website also has plenty of advice on how you can protect your family, including your pets.
The one thing I must disagree with the Resource Centre on, however, it its endorsement of “Frontline.” I used it for years on my dog with increasingly diminishing results, until she got a massive flea infestation, just a week after a Frontline application! It just wasn’t working anymore. I talked to the vet about it, and she said that both ticks and fleas were rapidly developing an immunity to chemicals in this product.
So what could I do? Well, given that my dog was old, and I really didn’t want to be applying chemicals to her anyway, I just stopped using Frontline, and guess what? She’s had far fewer ticks this year that she ever had when I used the product. No fleas either.