Be Smart About Ticks

Posted By on January 16, 2015

Be Smart About Ticks

yes, a rare non-hiking post. and a long one, apologies. but i wouldn’t blather on like this if it wasn’t really important.

as you might know, or perhaps not, i am a uri master gardener, and have been since 1990. part of being a master gardener in good standing is to accumulate at least 20 hours per year of continuing education, as defined by the master gardener association. well, it’s a new year, so time to start learning stuff again.

a friend and i recently attended a seminar at the university of rhode island called “ticksmart.” i thought i knew a lot about ticks, but i was wrong. ha! i guess continuing education is a good thing. hoocoodanode.

white-tailed deer (public domain image)

white-tailed deer (public domain image)

FUN TICK FACT #1: one white-tailed deer can be responsible for generating up to a half-million ticks per year. that’s a lot of ticks. see, each female tick that attaches to a deer—and deer get a crap-ton of ticks—makes 2,000 to 3,000 eggs. if a deer gets, say, 166 female ticks, a not-inconceivable amount, those ticks can then make as many as 500,000 eggs.

this tick id chart can be found at

this tick id chart can be found at

FUN TICK FACT #2: here is a partial list of diseases you can get from the 4 tick species that are most common here in new england…

  • Lyme Disease
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Babesiosis
  • Tick Paralysis
  • Tick-borne Relapsing Fever
  • Tularemia
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

the best part? you can get more than one of these at the same time.

so when are ticks active, and do you need to worry about ticks in the wintertime?

FUN TICK FACT #3: ticks can survive freezing. and washing in the washing machine with chlorine bleach and hot water. the professor who gave the seminar, dr. thomas mather, spoke of experiments he’d performed with ticks under both those conditions. frozen deer ticks became un-frozen and active in a matter of seconds upon thawing out. and ticks tied into a sock and run through a bleach wash with hot water came through just fine. if you want to make sure your clothes are tick-free upon returning home from hiking or coming inside from working in the yard, dry them in the dryer for 10 minutes on high heat first before washing them. ticks might laugh at cold and giggle at hot water, but they can’t take dry heat.

FUN TICK FACT #4: you can get deer ticks any time of the year. there are seasons in which you are more likely to have nymphs crawling up your leg, and seasons in which you are more likely to encounter adult ticks, but deer ticks have a 2-year life cycle, so there are always some around. always.

by now you’re probably saying, “AUUGGHHH!!!! NO MORE TICK FACTS, AUNTIE! THEY’RE NOT FUN! NO MORE!” i can dig that. now i’m going to tell you what you can do to protect yourself, your family, and your pets.


1. TREAT YOUR CLOTHES. there are two ways to go about this: a) you can send your clothes to the InsectShield™ people. here is a link to a form you can use. this is fairly inexpensive—$10 per item—and fairly quick, about a 1 week turnaround. this treatment uses permethrin, an insecticide, and once treated, the clothes can go through 70 washings before needing re-treatment. it is safe for both humans and pets, but it kills ticks within minutes of contact. kills them. dead. b) you can treat your clothes and shoes yourself with a permethrin spray, which you can buy at any outdoor supply store or hunting supply store. i get mine at ure outfitters in hope valley. it’s the same stuff insect shield uses, but a lower concentration. and if you have cats, try and keep them away from the clothes/shoes while the spray is still wet. once dried, it’s safe for cats, too. this will protect your clothing through about 6 washings. it’s around $6.00-$7.00 per can, and treats several articles of clothing. you can probably find the same thing on or any other internet supplier of stuff. same result for the ticks, too. dead. dead, dead, dead.

perimeter spray

perimeter spray

2. PROTECT YOUR YARD. there are a zillion different kinds of tick treatments for your yard, but you should know that not too many of them work very well. again, dr. mather tested all the various sprays/treatments on the market, and found that products containing bifenthrin and permethrin work the best. the tick encounter website has much more information on this, but it really only takes 1-2 treatments sprayed around the perimeter of your yard to protect you and your pets almost completely for a year. srsly. a year later, dr. mather found NO ticks on many of the treated properties.

3. PROTECT YOUR PETS. there are dog breeds that can suffer pretty badly from lyme disease. and even if they don’t attach, ticks can get picked up and fall off your dog or your cat and onto your carpets, bedding, and children. dr. mather highly recommended seresto collars for both dogs and cats, because they kill ticks before they attach. the internal-use products, like frontline, need to have the tick attach and start feeding for them to be effective. and they don’t do anything at all for ticks that don’t attach but just come along for the ride.

and finally (i know, right???), i’m going to send you to dr. mather’s tick encounter resource center website. there you will find lots more yucky detail about tick id, tick disease prevention, tick protection, etc. please, please, please take this seriously. lyme disease (not to mention the many other nasty bugs) can be a debilitating life-long chronic illness. it’s totally not worth taking a chance with.


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