The twelve states with the highest incidence of Lyme disease include Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. These 12 states alone account for 95% of all total cases of Lyme infection in the U.S.
Ticks become infected with Lyme and other pathogens when larvae (or nymphs) take a blood meal from infectious animal hosts. Engorged larvae molt over winter and emerge in May as poppy-seed sized nymphal deer ticks. Adult-stage deer ticks become active in October and remain active throughout the winter whenever the ground is not frozen. Blood-engorged females survive the winter in the forest leaf litter and begin laying their 1,500 or more eggs around Memorial Day (late May). These eggs begin hatching in early June, peaking in early July. The risk of contracting Lyme and other tick-borne diseases is highest during this time because the nymphs (which are smaller than a sesame seed) are difficult to see and their bite is painless. In most cases, Lyme disease is transmitted from May through July, when nymphal-stage ticks are active.
The name deer tick, tends to cause people to believe that ticks are infected with Lyme disease after biting deer. However, while it’s true that deer and other mammals can spread tick populations, they do not carry the disease. Instead, ticks mainly pick up Lyme pathogens from white-footed mice. It stands to reason then that by stopping the spread of ticks to mice to humans, the threat of Lyme disease infection can be decreased. This line of reasoning, is the science behind “Tick Tubes”.
Tick Tubes Explained
Basically, tick tubes are cardboard or plastic tubes filled with permethrin treated cotton balls. Mice collect the cotton balls to build their nests. The deer ticks that feed on the mice are exposed to the permethrin and killed. This breaks the life cycle and stops the spread of Lyme disease to human hosts.
Tubes are simply placed around your yard in areas with protective coverage (think like a mouse), such as flowerbeds, bushes, woodpiles, stone walls and sheds. To provide maximum coverage, tubes should be placed no more than 10 yards apart. To be most effective, Tick Tubes should be put out twice a year, once in spring and once in late summer. The first application kills nymphal ticks that emerge in the spring and the second application kills larval ticks that hatch in late summer. It is essential to set Tick Tubes out both times of the year to achieve best results. Spring applications should be made in May and summer applications made in late July. Scientists studying the effects of Tick Tubes on treated properties have recorded a 10 fold decrease in the presence of ticks and the risk of human exposure to an infected tick reduced by as much as 97%.
Commercially Available Tick Tubes
Two popular companies manufacture and sell tick tubes, Thermacell (maker of the popular Portable Mosquito Repeller) and Damminix. The pricing on both the Thermacell and Damminix Tick Tube are comparable, with 24 tubes (enough for 1 acre) costing approximately $75.00. Both the Thermacell (https://www.thermacell.com) and Damminix (http://www.ticktubes.com) products can be purchased online.
DIY Tick Tubes
For the individual who likes to do it yourself, Tick Tubes can also be made at home with a few simple materials.
- Toilet paper rolls and/or PVC pipe pieces; I used a mix of both.
- A bottle of Permethrin
- Cotton balls or left over dryer lint
- Disposable gloves & protective eyeglasses
Put on the gloves and safety glasses, then lay out the cotton or dryer lint and saturate it with the permethrin spray. I strongly doing this outside on a day with no wind. Allow the fibers to fully dry and then spray a second coat, again let it fully dry. Add pieces of the dry fibers to the tubes. A few pieces in each tube is enough, as you don’t want to over-stuff them. Place the tubes around your property, every 20-30 feet or so. Ticks are less likely to be in wide open lawns and are not able to travel/walk far on their own so they require something to move them, such as the mice and chipmunks they attach to. These animals tend to have small burrows and nests in sheltered areas, like underbrush and piles of leaves. Be sure to focus on those areas, along with anywhere you see chipmunks during the day. Keep I mind that mice are nocturnal, so it is unlikely you will see mice during the day to know exactly where to put the tubes.
Other Things Homeowners Can Do to Kill Ticks
Even with Tick Tubes successfully deployed, there are still a few other things that homeowners can do to help stop the spread of ticks.
- Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.
- Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas and around patios and play equipment. This will restrict tick migration into recreational areas. - Mow the lawn frequently and keep leaves raked.
- Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents that ticks feed on).
- Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees and place them in a sunny location, if possible.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that each year there are about 300,000 cases of Lyme disease, which is vectored by deer ticks. Do your part to keep yourself and your family safe this season with Tick Tubes and these preventative hints!
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