If you're in the Northeast, you're well-aware of the prevalence of deer ticks and Lyme's disease (especially after our extremely mild 2016 winter). The media is inundated with fear-based tactics that basically encourage us to avoid coming into contact with nature. That doesn't jibe with my lifestyle and I certainly don't plan on hiding indoors all summer.
I've lived in Western Pennsylvania all my life. Ticks have been worse the past few years, but I spend time deep in the woods on a weekly basis. My dog and I run or walk off-trail multiple times per week. I find tons of ticks on me all the time, but I've been lucky to never once have one attach.
With outdoor activities and yoga classes firing back up, I want to share a few tricks I have up my sleeve to avoid a tick problem!
INTRODUCE TICK PREDATORS:
One great preventative measure for the entire tick population is to introduce natural predators to the area. At home, my husband and I purchase Praying Mantis eggs to hatch in the spring. [Be sure to do your research to make sure they're a native species, but there's tons of places online and often locally (such as Agway) to purchase mantis sacks.] Each egg hatches hundreds of adorable teeny tiny mantises to release into your yard that once mature, will kill basically any pest insect, including stink bugs.
It’s not an option for everyone, but consider accommodating or attracting chickens or other tick-eating birds. Ground-feeding birds such as Robins eat ticks, so adding a bird feeder or birdbath area could help, as long as it stays clear of debris and shade that ticks love.
Field mice have recently surpassed deer as carriers of tick-borne Lyme's disease. If you add an outdoor cat into the mix, you might also lower your tick-eating bird population, but it's worth a shot if you have a lot of mice around!
Another preventative measure is obviously clothing. If you choose shorts, you can usually spot the tick easily, but there's also more of an opportunity for it to crawl upwards where you definitely don't want it. If you opt for pants and socks, light-colored clothing makes ticks easier to spot. Try to keep any gaps in clothing secured and tight-fitting.
Pesticides and poisons might work, but do you really want to trade one toxin for another? Especially when sprayed onto the skin, these poisons build up to have lasting and serious effects, often much worse than Lyme's disease. There are many essential oils that effectively repel (not kill) insects such as ticks, like peppermint, citronella, geranium or lemongrass. My favorite is DoTerra's TerraShield blend. It can be applied directly to skin or diluted to use in a spray bottle. This season, I've been spraying it on my legs as well as on my dog and I feel like I have seen less crawling around.
Careful checking is obviously the best way to prevent a tick from actually embedding. Ticks will most often be from the waist down unless you've been moving through heavy brush. Look carefully on clothing before they can sneak into areas such as socks or waist-bands. I also try to check my hair if I've really been frolicking. One great method for checking clothes is to use a lint-roller all over yourself before getting into your car.
Keep a healthy respect for nature and enjoy your surroundings!
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