If you think ticks are just another outdoor nuisance, no more dangerous than a mosquito, think again.
According to the CDC, approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported annually. It is caused by bacteria spread by the bite of an infected tick, and can lead to rash, fever, aches, and in serious cases, cardiac arrest and death. Although Lyme disease is most commonly associated with ticks, these tiny creatures are also responsible for the spread of more than 10 other diseases, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Even if a tick doesn’t carry disease, its habit of burrowing into the skin can make it difficult to remove, creating an open bite that can become infected. Be practical when moving through brush and woods in summertime, and take precautions to prevent tick bites.
Chemicals such as DEET and permethrin are effective tick deterrents, but should not be relied upon exclusively. (Of course, many homesteaders and off-gridders prefer not to use chemicals at all.)
(Listen to Off The Grid Radio’s show on repelling ticks and other bugs, naturally, here.)
Natural steps to prevent tick bites are a key component in any backwoods survival preparation. Protect yourself with one of these measures before your next foray into the brush, hunting trip, or yard maintenance task, and prevent ticks from becoming widespread on the property where you do most of your work.
Keep an Eye Out
- Know Where Ticks Hang Out – There are several varieties of ticks that bite humans. Learn what types live in your area, their active season, and where they are most likely found, and take extra steps to protect yourself when working in their habitat. When traveling through open country where ticks are known to habituate, long pants and/or boots, hats and other protective clothing are a necessity.
- Tick Checks – Learn how to find ticks on your pets, children and yourself. While venturing into the woods or upon returning home, strip off all clothing, examine all gear, and inspect your body for ticks. Pay special attention to armpits, groin and hair; ticks will wander on the skin to find a good place to bite, so don’t assume that an area that was left unexposed is necessarily safe. Bathe after yard work to find and remove ticks on the body; throw clothes in the dryer before putting them back on to kill any ticks hidden on the garments.
- Clothing – Identifying ticks in clothing is easier if you are wearing light colors. Tick nymphs are as small as poppy seeds, and adult ticks only about sesame-seed-sized, but their dark color will stand out in more contrast against a light surface. Tuck pants into socks when traveling through high brush.
Tick-Proof Your Property
- Mow the Lawn – Ticks wait at the tip of blades of grass and other brush for a host animal – or person — to walk by, and then they grab on. They are typically found within a few yards of a wooded or brush area. Keep the grass cut or maintain a border of cut grass to prevent ticks from becoming widespread on your property.
- Clean Up – Ticks need places to hide and nest, and leaf litter, woodpiles and debris in the yard can provide that for them. Keep your yard clean to discourage both ticks and their hosts from finding a good place to live.
- Build Defenses – Ticks need moisture to survive. Create a border of dry woodchips between brush or woods and your property to make ticks less likely to move into the yard.
Try Natural Deterrents
- Eat Garlic – Consuming garlic pills or garlicy foods may deter ticks. One study concluded the garlic scent reduced tick bites by 21 percent.
- Essential Oils – Several scents are purported to assist with deterring ticks. When applied to the skin or clothing, lemongrass, lavender, tea tree oil, geranium, peppermint, citronella, cedar, rosemary, thyme and eucalyptus all may throw ticks off the scent of your body, or discourage them from biting. Some studies suggest that ticks will merely scurry to an area of skin unprotected by oils before biting, but some deterrent effects have been noted; folk knowledge supports positive results from oils or combinations of oils. Geranium oil has shown a 90 percent deterrent rate in studies, and many other combinations are undergoing testing.
How do you repel ticks? Share your tips in the section below: