Easy Peasy Life for Ticks

Ticks In Jar

Collection of ticks

The recent warm winter was easy on heating bills and back muscles used to shovel snow, but it may mark an early return of Lyme Disease and the ticks that spread it.

At Winding Pathways we take a multi-pronged approach to reducing the odds of being bitten by an infected tick. Here’s great news! A new way to reduce Lyme Disease in white-footed mice is emerging which is good news for human health.

It was once believed that whitetail deer were the primary carriers of Lyme Disease with the theory that an infected tick leaves a deer and bites a human. Deer can carry Lyme Disease and pets and other wild animals can get it, but new research shows that white-footed (or deer) mice are the major carrier. Those tiny rodents are abundant where people live.

Old Standby Ways To Protect Against Lyme Disease

For many years we’ve done several things to lessen the chance that an infected tick will bite us.

First, we use repellents, even when working in the garden or enjoying a backyard barbeque. Deet-based repellents are widely available and repel ticks, mosquitoes, and even pesky flies. Deet can be applied to the skin. Permethrin is fatal to ticks and shouldn’t be applied to the skin. Spraying it on clothing makes life challenging for any tick seeking a human blood meal.

In recent years we’ve bought clothing from the Insect Shield Company. It is permeated with permethrin. Their clothing is stylish, comfortable, and durable, so we invested in several sets. In winter those clothes are stowed in the attic but worn daily during months when ticks are on the prowl.

Permethrin is sold in spray containers and it’s easy to treat jeans, shirts, socks, and shoes without needing to buy specially treated clothing. The chemical remains in clothing through several washings.

Second, we always do a tick check after being outside. Ticks typically walk around on a person for a few hours seeking a warm spot with thin skin to best extract blood. An unattached tick won’t spread disease, so after being outside we shed clothes, put them in the washing machine, take a warm sudsy shower, and check our bodies for ticks. They’re most likely to lurk in warm moist body parts but can be anywhere.

New Promising Way to Reduce Lyme Disease

Relatively new research links the incidence of Lyme Disease with the presence of white-footed mice. Before we knew this we were already doing the right thing by encouraging mouse predators to live on our property. We love spotting hawks wheel overhead and hearing the chilling calls of nighttime owls. Both feast on mice. So do foxes, many snake species, and coyotes. Domestic cats also do but they kill many birds, so we are a catless family.

US Biologic is introducing a new way to reduce the odds a human will contract Lyme Disease from a tick that had bitten an infected mouse. They’ve been working on its development for 20 years, and it’s becoming available through pest control companies in many states.

Lyme Shield

It’s called the LymeShield  System which combines traditional tick control with Lyme vaccine-coated pellets in a timed application dispenser. It doesn’t kill the mouse or any predator that might catch and eat it. A tick that bites an inoculated mouse will not pick up the Lyme bacteria. So, if that tick then bites a human it will not transfer the disease. The home page has a fascinating map that shows the progressive spread of Lyme disease.

US Biologic has come up with a clever way to help protect a family from Lyme Disease.  We’re going to try it when it’s available in Iowa but we’ll keep using Deet and Pyrethrin and doing tick checks after being outside. We’ll also keep saying “thanks” to our predator neighbors that are constantly on the prowl for mice meals.

Being outdoors is amazingly good for human health. Playing ball, fishing, gardening, grilling, and even just sitting in a lawn chair offer healthy fresh air and sunshine. Fear of contracting Lyme Disease encouraged many people to stay indoors. Winding Pathways urges them to take tick precautions but spend as much time as possible outside.

Go outside and have fun.