Asked February 10, 2020, 4:12 PM EST

Do you recommend anything to use for ticks in the garden? I had lyme disease last summer and now don't like working in my garden. I don't like to use poisons and want to do what will be safest for the environment and people. Thank you.

Anne Arundel County Maryland

1 Response

Dealing with ticks at home needs to be a multi-pronged approach, especially if forgoing insecticides (which, as you mention, also has environmental benefits). Tick habitat modification as well as using personal protection are the most practical methods. This includes trimming any plants that overhang a pathway, as ticks climb plant stems to better seek and grab their hosts, and reducing piles of leaf litter as this creates a humid environment to help the ticks avoid desiccation. As mice are the main reservoir for Lyme Disease, making the yard less appealing for mice can also help to reduce their numbers. Deer fencing - depending on the type - may keep them out of the garden but it can also hinder mice predators from reaching their prey and serving as population control.

Personal protection is mostly a matter of wearing the appropriate clothing to both discourage tick attachment and also make ticks easier to spot during inspections. Long sleeves and permethrin-treated clothing are both useful for this.

If you decide to try a chemical treatment, various products exist that use permethrin to treat the problem at the source by killing or repelling the ticks the mice are exposed to. Stations of treated nesting material are placed around the yard for mice to discover and the material, when added to their nest, contains compounds that do not harm the mice but do affect the mouse's parasites. Given how targeted these exposures are, little else in the food web should be affected.

We have a few publications on ticks and prevention, though you may have already read up on such information when you were diagnosed last summer.