Wood Ticks

2014 was the worst year I have ever seen for wood ticks, even on my suburban property


When we first moved to this home we had 30 feet of waist high ditch weed running along the 150 foot property edge, and with that we had frogs and snakes and ducks and wood ticks.  But since the city removed it all to install sewer pipe and curb the road, we don’t see much of any of those things anymore.

But this year I pick up ticks if I mow the lawn, pull weeds or trim the privacy trees.  I have even found a couple crawling across my kitchen floor.  Although we had an unusually long and cold winter, we also had deep snow cover which protected the ticks from freezing.  So more survivors than usually are multiplying at a rapid rate with our cool damp spring.

Ticks are always expected when we go camping or hiking or even just out to the farm.  But why are we finding them in the suburbs?  Well, not every suburban homeowner will find that they have wood ticks on their property.  But think about what wood ticks like about the woods and hiking trails:  cool damp environment;  long grass or brush; a thick layer of humus and leaf litter.  Sound familiar gardeners?

Because of my gardens, composting and other general organic and sustainable practices, I have provided a lovely environment for many desirable insects, birds, microorganisms and critters in general.  And yes, also for the woodticks.  It seems that they have found a favorite area on my property to survive, thrive and breed.  I have a long stand of trees and evergreens that is shady and cool most of the day.  I have also mulched the whole area with shredded leaves so the evergreens stay moist.  Yup, the ticks love it.

I don’t know how much you know about ticks, but I did not quite understand why I kept finding so many on my person.  It’s not like I was in the trees and evergreens at all this past few weeks.  But apparently they can detect heat, body odors and carbon monoxide.  They also figure out regularly travelled paths.  So they frequently come out and climb to the top of a plant or an outstretched branch, hang on with their back legs and stick their front legs out to be ready to grab on.  If they wait too long they start to dry out and go back to their moist spot for a while then try again later.  I’m guessing they detect me when I mow over there and scurry out until they can reach me!  I know that’s where they are because I was over their pulling weeds around the evergreens the other day and they kept crawling up my arms.  I’m sure they were very excited by the surprise visit.

And now the dilemma of what to do about them, this will go on for several weeks and again in the fall, and may even perpetuate in the coming years.  Seven dust sprinkled out there would kill them, but also anything else that comes along, as well as the birds that eat those ticks.  I could remove the leaf mulch, but lose the wonderful benefits of the decomposing leaves.  For now I have decided to just spray my feet and legs with deet when I am out and wait to see if the problem gets worse.

Needless to say I do a thorough tick check before I go in the house.  Oh, and when they hitchhike into the house with you?  Don’t worry, they dry up and die in a day.  Unless they go in the hamper with damp clothes!  So don’t do that!

Happy gardening, and don’t forget your tick check!

Sharon DwyerComment