Keep pets and humans safe with these tick control strategies
When the weather gets warmer, everyone likes to be outside more, from pets and children to adults. But spring and summer also bring an unwelcome pest: ticks. And whether you have an ongoing issue or are looking for preventative measures, it’s important to look into yard treatments to keep everyone safe.
Luckily, there are tick control methods you can try to help prevent ticks from using you or your pets as an all-you-can-eat buffet. There’s no one magic solution, but this guide will show you how to get rid of ticks by layering effective tick control strategies.
What Are Ticks?
Ticks are small parasites that live in wooded or grassy areas. Commonly, you’ll find them at the edge of forests and woods, but if you live in a coastal town, you might also find them on beaches.
They hang out in tall grass, low shrubs, branches, and fallen leaves—pretty much any shady, moist area where they can lay eggs and feed on prey like deer, rabbits, birds, rodents, pets, and humans.
So, why are ticks a big deal? There are hundreds of different tick species, and some can transmit harmful pathogens to humans. Deer ticks, dog ticks, and lone star ticks are some of the most dangerous in the country.
In particular, deer ticks (also known as blacklegged ticks) are the primary transmitters of the two bacteria that cause Lyme disease, along with other infectious bacteria such as babesiosis and anaplasmosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the Cary Institute, there are over 400,000 Lyme disease diagnoses in the U.S. annually, and that will only get worse as tick populations expand with climate change.
How Much Does Tick Control Cost?
The cost to treat your yard for ticks can range from $50 to $150 per treatment, though a pest control pro may charge as much as $1,250 for a large infestation that requires multiple treatments. If you do the job on your own, expect to pay for supplies. The total cost depends on your tick control strategy.
How Do You Know if Your Yard Has Ticks?
It all starts with finding a tick, but the CDC has outlined at-risk areas based on regional ticks. For example, the American dog tick is most likely to be found east of the Rocky Mountains and in limited areas on the Pacific Coast.
Ticks are usually most active from April to October, so you can inspect your yard during those months. Search with a flashlight in tick-prone areas or drag a light-colored sheet through your yard to see if it catches any ticks.
Typically, most homeowners find out about a tick problem a little too late—when they’ve already been bitten or find a tick in their pet’s fur.
Though size, pattern, and color vary from species to species, you can identify a tick with the following traits:
Eight legs for adults or six legs for larvae
Brown, reddish brown, or black color
Teardrop-shaped body (it’ll be flat if they’re unfed and rounded if they are fed)
Adult size ranging from the size of a sesame seed to the size of a raisin
If you notice a tick, you’ll want to start yard treatments immediately to ensure you take control of the situation before it can get out of hand.
How to Get Rid of Ticks in Your Yard
Getting rid of ticks in your yard isn’t a one-and-done type of deal. Pesticides can only go so far. You don’t want your yard to be a five-star hotel for invasive insects. Make it as inhospitable as possible by taking some preventative measures and trying out various tick control treatments.
Here’s how to kill ticks—or, at the very least, send them packing.
1. Use Pesticides
Tick treatments for yards typically involve pesticides called acaricides. This is a surefire way to effectively reduce populations—but be forewarned that it’s not always a good solution for the average homeowner. Improper use of garden pesticides has side effects, and you could accidentally kill off beneficial insects and pollinators like honeybees.
If you use pesticides, stick with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved products containing bifenthrin, permethrin, and Met52 to maximize effectiveness and safety. These products should have an EPA registration number on the label, which you can check on the EPA’s website.
Before spraying, check your state regulations, and avoid blanket spraying unless you’ve hired a pest control company near you.
2. Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a natural tick treatment made from the glass shells of tiny, photosynthesizing algae called diatoms. It’s thought that the high silica content kills ticks by dehydrating them on the spot.
You can put it anywhere you’ve noticed ticks in your yard or use it as a barrier around grass or wooded areas. As long as your DE is food grade and you apply it correctly, it’s safer for use around humans, pets, and other critters in your garden. Follow safety precautions and manufacturer instructions for application, and wear a mask, goggles, and gloves when applying it around your home.
3. Build a Safe Zone
Ticks love shady, moist areas. Try creating a less tick-heavy recreational zone in your garden by adding a barrier between wooded areas and your lawn. A 3-foot border of dry mulch or gravel restricts tick migration—even if it doesn’t stop it completely—and children and pets are less likely to cross over into the areas where the pests spend more time.
Positioning swing sets and outdoor furniture away from these woody havens is also good practice.
4. Discourage Deer, Rodents, and Other Small Animals
Ticks have no issues hitching a ride straight to your yard on the back of deer, rodents, birds, or other small animals.
To get rid of ticks, try these control strategies:
Install fencing to keep out critters.
Plant a deer-resistant garden.
Remove bird feeders or position them away from the house or lawn areas.
Move woodpiles, which are perfect nesting grounds for mice.
Keep garbage bins locked in a safe area away from raccoons.
5. Practice Meticulous Yard Maintenance
Keeping your yard tidy is an excellent line of defense against a tick infestation.
Consider the following to reduce the humid, shady habitats deer ticks love:
Prune overhanging branches and shrubbery growing over your lawn—ticks aren’t fans of dry, sunny conditions.
Regularly rake your lawn and borders and get rid of piles of leaf litter and brush.
Keep wood piles away from the house and lawn.
6. Adopt Tick-Inhospitable Landscaping
Hire a landscaper near you to help you redesign your landscaping in a way that minimizes humid, shady tick sanctuaries. Avoid thick, fast-spreading ground covers and invasive species ticks love, such as the Japanese barberry and glossy buckthorn.
You can also grow plant species that repel pests. Some of the most effective for ticks are:
7. Use Tick Tubes Around Your Yard
Tick tubes are cardboard tubes treated with permethrin-soaked cotton balls. Place them in areas with a lot of rodent activity, and the rodents will drag the cotton back to their nests. This pesticide-treated cotton kills ticks on contact—so any ticks on the mouse or in their nest are done for.
Tips for Dealing With Ticks
You can’t always kill every tick in your yard, even with the best treatment strategies. Some areas just have a higher prevalence than others, especially if you live near the woods. If your yard is prone to ticks, these tips can help protect your family and your pets.
1. Wear Tick-Proof Clothing
Tick-proof your clothing by tucking socks into pants so ticks can’t crawl up your legs. Wear long sleeves. The less skin that’s exposed, the better. You can even buy tick-repellent clothing that’s pre-treated with permethrin or use your own 0.5% permethrin spray (don’t spray permethrin directly on your skin).
2. Avoid Tick-Heavy Areas
Rather than trudging through tick-heavy areas like tall grass or woods, hang out on your patio or manicured areas of your lawn.
3. Wear Tick Repellant
If you do have to go to a tick-heavy area, spray yourself with a skin-safe bug repellent. Cedar oil spray is an option that’s safe for adults, children, and pets, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, conventional options like DEET may be more effective. You can make your own spray using the essential oil mixed with water.
4. Check for Ticks
If you’ve been outside, check your body for ticks. They like to hide in sheltered places like behind your ears, between your legs, under your arms, or even inside your belly button. Don’t forget to check your pets, too. Dog ticks got their name for a reason.
5. Wash Your Body and Clothes
Some ticks are so small you may not notice them—so don’t give them time to latch. Take a shower immediately after you come inside, and wash and dry your clothes on a high-heat setting for at least 10 minutes. This should kill any ticks that are camping out.
6. Spray Around Indoor-Outdoor Areas
If you find a tick inside, it’s probably because you’ve dragged it there. There’s not enough humidity for them to thrive, but they can live in places like storage sheds, breezeways, doghouses, decks, and porches—especially if there’s nearby shrubbery. Don’t leave these areas out of your tick control strategy and reach out to a local exterminator if you need help.
DIY vs. Hire a Pro
Most homeowners can take steps to control ticks on their own. Everything helps—from regular lawn and yard maintenance to creating a safe zone away from tick-heavy areas. That being said, when it comes to actually killing ticks, pros know best.
A pest control company in your area will know the best time to apply pesticides in your region to specifically target ticks. Most often, they’ll spray in tick-heavy areas like yard edges and shady, leaf-covered areas.They also have powerful spraying equipment and know how to handle the chemicals safely.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best way to control ticks?
The best way to control ticks is to create an inhospitable environment. Ticks love dark, moist areas in tall grass or the edge of woods. Prune your shrubs, mow your lawn, and remove any safe haven of ground cover like leaf piles.
Do your best to deter animals that attract ticks and create a barrier of gravel between the woods and your yard. If you still have a problem, hire a pro to apply a tick treatment.
What is the best tick killer for your yard?
The strongest killers are a category of pesticides called acaricides, which specifically target arachnids, which is what ticks are. Choose an EPA-certified pesticide with the active ingredients bifenthrin, permethrin, or Met52. These are the strongest options that limit environmental damage, but keep in mind that they can kill beneficial insects too.
What keeps ticks away?
Ticks don’t like certain smells, including cedar, lavender, peppermint, marigold, and sage. You can use these essential oils to create a spray or grow these plants in your garden to deter ticks. Keep in mind that ticks don’t hang out in trees, so small shrubs like lavender plants or marigold plants are more beneficial to your garden.