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Battling Ticks Carries Risks and Rewards

Ticks love our backyards as much as we do, so how can we enjoy the outdoors without worrying about picking up a tick-borne disease? Ken Hughes, a certified pesticide supervisor, shares some insights into controlling ticks in your backyard.

Backyard activities carry with them the chance of being bitten by a tick and contracting Lyme disease . Many companies have struggled to come up with the silver bullet to control this debilitating and widespread disease. Most of these controls are synthetic chemicals that target the ticks responsible for the spread of Lyme disease.

One of these chemicals, bifenthrin , is designated as a class C carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency . This means there is some evidence of “carcinogenic potential," although there has been no documented harm, to date, to humans. Bifenthrin attacks the nervous system of insects. The chemical is applied to the perimeter of properties (where the woods meets the lawn), which is the most popular habitat for Lyme-carrying ticks. Unlike spot-treating weeds in a lawn, tick controls need to be sprayed over a wide area. There is great potential for drift, runoff and nearby water contamination.

A few years ago, a reputable chemical company formulated a system of tick control by treating field mice and chipmunks, which play a major role in the spread of ticks. Mice were lured into sealed bait stations where they rubbed against an insecticide-soaked wick. The insecticide killed the ticks without harming the mice. The company claimed a 96% reduction in ticks after two years.  Unfortunately, the product was too costly for widespread residential use and was discontinued.

As with any type of insect control, consumers should do their own research in order to be fully aware of the options. Informed consumers will be able to make a decision on the “risk versus reward” of how they control ticks in their backyards.

Do you spray your backyard for ticks? Leave a comment below.

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