Spring is here and it’s time to enjoy the great outdoors. Fresh air and time outside is great for the whole family, so don’t let pesky and potentially harmful creatures spoil your fun.
There are many practical and important reasons for homeowners to proactively keep control of outdoor pests. Unfortunately, your yard is no longer a safe haven from mosquitoes and ticks, which in particular can cause major health problems.
WAY MORE THAN JUST A NUISANCE
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people getting diseases transmitted by mosquito and tick bites has more than tripled in the United States in recent years. Since 2004, at least nine such diseases have been discovered or newly introduced in the U.S. Officials emphasize that it’s become increasingly important for everyone – especially children – to be protected while outdoors.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are about 200 different species of mosquitoes in the United States, which can transmit very serious, potentially fatal diseases including Zika, West Nile Virus, Malaria & Encephalitis. For most of these diseases, there are no vaccines and no treatment, so the only way to prevent infection is through mosquito control efforts.
Some mosquito facts:
- According to the World Health Organization, mosquito bites result in the deaths of more than 1 million people every year.
- On average, more than 1,000 Americans become seriously ill or die as the result of diseases transmitted by a mosquito bite.
- Mosquitoes actually feed on nectar, plant juices, and decaying plant material for sustenance.
The CDC estimates that about 300,000 Americans get Lyme Disease annually, and the Northeast, is a hot spot for tick-borne diseases. In Westchester County and Putnam County, NY, milder temperatures have allowed more ticks to survive the winter, further increasing the number of Lyme Disease cases.
Some tick facts:
- Scientists have detected at least a dozen new diseases transmitted by ticks over the last 50 years.
- Tick bites are typically undetected and do not hurt or itch.
- In Westchester & Putnam counties, the tick of greatest concern in is the blacklegged tick also known as the deer tick.
WHERE MOSQUITOES & TICKS HIDE
To begin controlling mosquito and tick populations, homeowners should understand where they frequent.
Mosquitoes need water to breed, and all it takes is a few inches of water for a female to redeposit her eggs and create habitats. Be mindful of standing water that can be collected on your property via:
- Bird baths
- Wading/kiddie pools
- Rain barrels
- Rain gutters
- Old tires
- Plastic covers
- Empty containers
- Tree holes
- Cinder blocks
- Tire swings
Other typical spots outside the home include:
- Outdoor lighting over entrances
- Open trash cans
- Flower pots
- Potted plant trays
Ticks can be found anywhere their hosts live, mainly in moist, shady outdoor areas such as grassy fields, wooded areas, shrubs, weeds, and wood piles. They are particularly found in humid environments and prefer areas at ground level and will cling to usually no more than 18-24 inches off the ground. They also lurk on lawns and gardens with tall grass, brush and shrubs, and seem to enjoy the edges of woods and around old stone walls.
Ticks attach themselves to and can feed on mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, and prefer to have a different host animal at each stage of life. Deer ticks’ primary hosts are deer and the white-footed mouse, which are common in Westchester County, NY, Putnam County, NY and New England.
Ticks can also enter and live in your home, particularly via household pets. The only ticks generally found to live indoors are the Brown Dog Tick. In a typical house environment, unfed deer ticks are not likely to survive even 24 hours. Ticks on moist clothing in a hamper can survive 2-3 days.
TIPS FOR CONTROLLING MOSQUITOES & TICKS
Homeowners can take these proactive steps to control mosquitoes and ticks.
- Eliminate unnecessary standing water receptacles (i.e. empty containers, old tires, toys, etc.).
- Change water in bird baths, fountains, wading pools, rain barrels, and potted plant trays at least once a week.
- Drain or fill temporary pools of water with dirt.
- Keep swimming pool water treated and circulating.
- To keep mosquitoes from invading the inside of your home, repair screens on doors and windows, and if you can, use air conditioning.
- Use an EPA-registered insect repellent on your exposed skin.
- Clean and maintain your yard:
- Ticks are shade lovers and can’t survive in the sun, so cleaning up overgrown vegetation and leaf piles will give ticks fewer places to congregate.
- Pruning tree branches and shrubs around the lawn edge will let in more sunlight.
- Mow the lawn regularly because it’s more difficult for ticks to circulate in shorter grasses.
- Choose plants for your yard that deter ticks such as mint, lavender, rosemary, marigolds and citronella grass. An added bonus is that mosquitoes and fleas also hate these strong smelling plants, so get planting!
- Keep deer and other unwelcome animals off your property. Deer are the primary carrier of ticks through the yard. Use repellent treatments to deter deer from feeding on valuable plants and carrying ticks into the yard. Homeowners can go a step further and check the landscape to identify and remove plants that are attracting deer to the yard.
- Deter rodents (potential hosts for ticks!) by stacking wood neatly and in a dry area.
- Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration into recreational areas.
- Use insect repellent on your skin and clothing.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks to cover your skin.
- Check your family for ticks after spending time outside.
- Take a shower within 2 hours after being outside to help wash away ticks.
- Put dry clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks.
- Check your pets for ticks every day, especially if they have been outside. If you find a tick, remove it right away.
- Talk with your veterinarian about the best way to protect your pets from ticks.
- Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees.
- Remove receptacles that may give ticks a place to hide such as old furniture, mattresses, or trash from the yard.
SEEK PRIVATE PEST CONTROL SERVICES
Unfortunately, these proactive steps might not provide an effective enough solution. For extra protection and peace of mind, it is recommended to seek a reputable private pest control company in your area.
“Pest control professionals play a key role in today’s society, working year-round to protect our homes, families and businesses from the many threats associated with pests,”
said Cindy Mannes, vice president of public affairs at the National Pest Management Association. She urges homeowners and business owners to, “Be vigilant in pest-proofing their properties at the start of spring, and of the importance of working with a licensed pest control professional before an infestation gets out of hand.”
Here are some tips for finding a good local company:
- Ask to see a license or certification, a label for the insecticide being used, and protective gear. Professional companies should have all of these easily available for your review. In most states, they are legally required for any pest-control business. The license should be current, and the label should indicate which chemicals the company is using.
- Ask if they have a plan to protect non-target organisms. The chemicals used might also kill good insects, like honeybees, ladybugs, and butterflies. Professional and experienced companies will have specific strategies to minimize the drift of sprays into non-target areas.
- Ask whether they make follow-up visits to ensure their treatments are working. Reputable companies will come back periodically to test the area to see that their chemicals are working against the local mosquito population.
- Harmful chemicals to combat these pests pose a threat to your health, loved ones & the environment, so discuss organic options, which are effective and safe.