Soon, the leaves will begin to turn and we will be breaking out sweaters. While there are many things that you probably associate with the autumn season, we can almost bet that ticks and the diseases they can transmit are probably not amongst them. It is a common misconception that ticks are not as active in the fall. While it is true that ticks are absent during the colder months of winter, it does not mean they die (unfortunately). They simply go into what is referred to as diapause, a period of inactivity characterized by a low metabolic rate, just high enough to keep them alive. Before the freezing temps come around though, ticks are active as they prepare for this hibernation. Some tick species, like the Blacklegged Tick, will remain active and feed in their adult stage from fall until spring as long as the temperatures are above freezing.
So, what does this mean for us humans who just want to get outside and enjoy the fall? You just need to be a little more vigilant and follow some simple strategies that will help protect yourselves and your families (furry members included) against tick bites. Here are some specific and easy tips we suggest that will help you give ticks the cold shoulder this fall.
Stay Clear of Their Territory
Keep out of outdoor areas that ticks are likely handing out. No, they won’t jump from or fall off of trees onto their hosts. The fact is that ticks are blind and find their hosts by crawling to the top of low-lying vegetation, such as grass and shrubs, where they wait for passersby to latch onto. And, since tick bites are usually painless, most people don’t even know when they’ve been bitten. Be mindful of areas with thick low-lying vegetation and shrubs and avoid walking through it if possible.
Don’t Put Out the Welcome Mat
Knowing where ticks like to hide can help you out at home. Making sure your yard is free and clear of areas where ticks would want to hang-out requires just a bit of clean-up. Be sure to keep your lawn mowed short and your yard clear of leaves and other brushy debris. Trim shrubs away from your home so they do not have a clear path to your house. If your property borders a wooded area, adding a three-foot-wide wood chip or gravel border around the edge of your yard can help prevent tick migration.
Don’t Pick-up Hitchhikers
We all love to take advantage of the beauty and crisp weather the fall season offers us. While we would never discourage a jaunt in the woods, there are some things you can do to make sure you don’t pick-up unwanted hitchhikers. For one, try to stick to wider trails and avoid overgrown pathways. Don’t venture into wooded or bushy areas where the ground is covered in high grass or leaf litter without proper protection (outlined below).
Dress for Tick Safety Success
Light colored socks, pants, and shirts will allow you to easily spot ticks (which might be as tiny as a poppy seed) quickly and remove them before they attach. Since the weather is so nice you’ll have no problem wearing long sleeves and pants, but tucking everything in (including your pants into your socks) will add even more protection. Believe us, ticks will not judge your style choice.
Yep, Repellent is Always Recommended
Use a repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours. Remember to follow the label instructions when applying insect repellent, and parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth. The EPA has this handy online tool that will help you select a repellent that is right for you.
Keep Everything in Check
Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within 2 hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you. And, always perform a full-body “tick check.” Take special care to inspect the areas between your toes and the backs of your knees, as well as your groin, armpits, neck, hairline, and ears. Remember to check your children, pets, and gear, too!
Of course, our Mosquito Shield Service will help protect you too. We perform our last tick rotation treatment of the year in the fall, as soon as their hibernation season starts. Taking the time to protect yourself against ticks now will help you not only this season but even into the spring. Contact us now to learn more about our Tick Shield treatments.