April 23, 2014
Most of you have heard of Lyme disease. If you haven’t had it, you probably know 1 or more people who have been diagnosed with the disease. If you are spending time outside you know that you should cover up bare skin and that you should use appropriate insect repellents to help to prevent being bitten by ticks that carry Lyme disease. What many of you may not know is that your own yard can be a place where you can contract Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is carried by the deer tick. In July and August, the larval stage of the deer tick is looking for a blood meal. Contrary to what you might think, the tick at this point is not likely to be feeding on the deer. They are feeding on the common field mouse. It is the field mouse that is the likely carrier of the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Once the larval stage feed on an infected mouse, they can be carriers of Lyme disease. In April through June, there is a stage of the deer tick called the nymph. This stage is most likely to infect us because we are out in our yards cleaning up the yard and being in areas where ticks can find us. The nymph stage is about the size of a grain of pepper. This makes it very hard to see on us.
Many people advocate for the elimination of field mice around the yard. However, there is a better method to use the mice to kill the ticks. There is a product called Damminix. It is sold in many of the garden centers. Damminix is comprised of tubes that are filled with cotton balls. The cotton is an ideal nesting material for the mice. The cotton balls are treated with an insecticide called Permethrin. When the mice pick up the cotton balls and bring them to their nest, the insecticide coats the fur of the mouse. The insecticide doesn’t kill the mouse. The coating of the insecticide on the mouse’s fur kills any tick larvae or nymphs that try to feed on the mouse. This makes the mouse the little exterminator that runs around your yard! The Damminix tubes are placed around your yard twice a year. Mid April to June is one of the times that you place the tubes in your yard. The second season to put out the tubes is during July and August. The tubes need to be placed in areas that are frequented by mice. This would include brush piles, wood piles, under shrubs, stone walls and areas of high grass. The tubes are placed in these areas and should be spaced no more than 30 feet apart. Once you have put the tubes out, observe the tubes to see if the mice are taking the cotton balls. If they are not, try moving the tubes to another area of your yard. If you treat your yard twice a year, you will dramatically reduce the number of deer ticks in your yard.
To answer the obvious question, yes you can still come in contact with deer ticks by walking in wooded areas or any other areas that make up an ideal habitat for field mice. Since you spend more time in your own yard, you are more likely to pick up the disease in your own yard.
By placing the Damminix tubes in your yard you will aid in reducing the number of deer tick larvae and nymphs that can cause Lyme disease. Now is a good time to put the Damminix tubes in your yard. If you know anyone who has Lyme disease, you know how difficult it is to treat the disease. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.