Sunday, February 1, 2015

Controlling Ticks

I live in New Jersey.  We have a booming tick population.  This is not a glamorous topic.

Last year, several horses on the property contracted Lyme disease and were treated. Thankfully, Harley and his paddock mate dodged the bullet that time, but obviously this is an on-going problem if you live in the northeastern part of the United States. I tested positive for Lyme's several years ago (before this blog) and was suffering from relentless headaches.  It was scary.  Ticks can carry infective bacteria which cause diseases like Lyme disease and Ehrlichiosis.

The tick population is difficult (impossible?) to control.  Deer, small mammals, and birds all shuttle this little pest around our farm.  Preventative spraying in early June is an option as this is supposed to target the nymph stage of the life cycle, which is most notorious for carrying bacteria and infecting people and pets.  I have reservations about the health risks and effectiveness of pesticide use, but I also do not want to make life easy for the ticks.  The biologist in me says that the vacancies left in the environment will quickly be filled in leaving us with an illusion of safety.

My tick prevention plan thus far has been to avoid trail riding in the spring and summer (insert sad face), use "green" fly spray, and to feed Harley garlic flakes (vampires also stay away).  I wash his legs carefully after riding in nature and check him meticulously for ticks during the spring and summer.

Are ticks a problem in your area?  What methods do you employ to project yourself and your pets?