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Disrupting the 2 year tick life cycle  RSS feed

 
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My wife and I are buying 58 acres of beautiful, secluded, rolling topography, mighty old tree inhabited, tick infested land. It has approximately 35 acres in pasture and the remainder in woods. The day we came home walking the property the first time, much to my dismay I was covered in seed ticks all up and down my legs, with some full size adults everywhere else. The last few times I've been to visit the land I've sprayed toxic gick on my socks, shoes, and pants and it seems to work (I'm not spraying that shit on my skin). Only had 3 tick bites last time and pulled 4 or 5 off that were crawling around on me. I hate toxic chemicals, the companies that make them, and having to buy this spray which means my money went back to the evil cronies who poison the planet.

So the neighbor had an agreement with the landowner and has had a small 9-15 head herd of cattle grazing free will on it for the last 20 years. I met the neighbor and thankfully he's super a nice guy and I told him he can continue to keep his cattle on the land until my wife and I build a little house on it and move in next year, and he seemed happy about that, not having to scramble to relocate his cattle. Besides, he knew the land was for sale and this day was coming. So I understand ticks have a 2 year life cycle, and I wonder if the land is so tick ridden because the cattle have been playing host. In my mind I like to think that removing the ticks food source will have an impact on their population. But is removing livestock from the land for a few years going to have any real impact? Is this futile efforts if the opossums, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, fox, etc. are still playing host to the tick population? I totally understand chickens and guineas, and I'll be having them out there on patrol once we move there. My wife and I will one day be having our own livestock on the land, but that's several years out. We want to be able to homestead without having to spray carcinogens or wear a hazmat suit.

We would much appreciate any thoughts on how to address this problem in an environmentally and permaculture way. Thanks!!
 
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James Freyr wrote:My wife and I are buying 58 acres of beautiful, secluded, rolling topography, mighty old tree inhabited, tick infested land. It has approximately 35 acres in pasture and the remainder in woods. The day we came home walking the property the first time, much to my dismay I was covered in seed ticks all up and down my legs, with some full size adults everywhere else. The last few times I've been to visit the land I've sprayed toxic gick on my socks, shoes, and pants and it seems to work (I'm not spraying that shit on my skin). Only had 3 tick bites last time and pulled 4 or 5 off that were crawling around on me. I hate toxic chemicals, the companies that make them, and having to buy this spray which means my money went back to the evil cronies who poison the planet.

So the neighbor had an agreement with the landowner and has had a small 9-15 head herd of cattle grazing free will on it for the last 20 years. I met the neighbor and thankfully he's super a nice guy and I told him he can continue to keep his cattle on the land until my wife and I build a little house on it and move in next year, and he seemed happy about that, not having to scramble to relocate his cattle. Besides, he knew the land was for sale and this day was coming. So I understand ticks have a 2 year life cycle, and I wonder if the land is so tick ridden because the cattle have been playing host. In my mind I like to think that removing the ticks food source will have an impact on their population. But is removing livestock from the land for a few years going to have any real impact? Is this futile efforts if the opossums, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, fox, etc. are still playing host to the tick population? I totally understand chickens and guineas, and I'll be having them out there on patrol once we move there. My wife and I will one day be having our own livestock on the land, but that's several years out. We want to be able to homestead without having to spray carcinogens or wear a hazmat suit.

We would much appreciate any thoughts on how to address this problem in an environmentally and permaculture way. Thanks!!


Guineas and possums are going to help the most.
 
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...seed ticks are awful!  We've lived with them for more than forty years and they are the summer conversation here...'not many seed ticks this year' or 'seed ticks are really bad this summer'  or 'don't go to the creek seed ticks are out'....yearlings are so much easier to see and don't come in such hordes, and adults fewer yet.

We had goats...they didn't seem to get many ticks and we had chickens that helped some.  We kept paths mowed and that helped a lot.  In a bad year you could see the tips of the long grass along the paths just loaded with seed ticks and then later yearlings.  I got into using a wide piece of masking tape to brush them off with and then burned the tape...they would almost leap onto the tape as is their nature.

Tape is also a great way to remove them from your legs, etc as they crawl up...no way will that little tool that's sold for tick removal work for these guys.  We got to where we would carry some masking tape everywhere and check frequently, us and the kids.

We had guineas briefly and I think they were doing a great job but they were slowly picked off by wandering dogs and a fox.

I did find out that I have/had tick fever and a low grade lyme infection...I've taken astragalus ever since as an immune boost after a long herbal regime.

I don't think there's anyway to get rid of them...some old timers here burn pastures, woods and say that helps.

Having  dog is definitely encouraging the life cycle.  Our dog died from tick fever in the end and they tend to sweep the woods for ticks and then drop them in your yard....but then deer, as much as dogs, pick up and drop them all the time also.

A couple years ago we moved to town and I made it a whole summer with just ONE tick bite.  This summer we looked at a two acre property with our son and on the way home my ankles started itching...under my socks were hundreds starting to chow down...my husband knew to stop at the nearest store and pick up some masking tape and we sat in the parking lot picking ticks...an Arkansas pass time   


EDIT...we never used anything toxic on ourselves or the land (but eventually did on our dog, not a treatment suitable for permies)...too stubborn, I guess, and for the longest time we thought maybe we had built up an immunity to tick born illnesses.  I didn't have serious tick fever symptoms so maybe this was true to some extent.

 
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first the really bad news about ticks, they can go without a meal for up to 10 years and survive. It seems that they are carriers of more diseases now than even three years ago (this is probably just our technology getting better at detecting the diseases).
Seed ticks are just baby ticks and the eggs are laid in groups of 100 or more, so when the little suckers hatch there seems to be a million of them.

animals that eat ticks; chickens, guinea hens, thrushes.
insects that eat ticks- I have not found any as yet.

I have not found DE to be any good at killing ticks.
If you have dogs or cats do get them tick, flea and mosquito treatments (ours comes in chewy treat type delivery system)

Redhawk
 
Todd Parr
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:

animals that eat ticks; chickens, guinea hens, thrushes.

Redhawk


And possums (opossums).  Apparently a single possum eats 5,000 ticks per season.  I don't know many people other than myself that actively seek them out.  I do make sure my chicken coop is possum-proof, but other than that, I haven't had any issues with letting them live on my land.  They are pretty friendly creatures, in spite of their impressive threat display.  A word of caution for people with horses:  Possums can transmit a serious disease to horses.  The name escapes me currently, but it's a disease that attacks the nervous system and can be fatal.
 
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Todd Parr wrote:
Bryant RedHawk wrote:
animals that eat ticks; chickens, guinea hens, thrushes.
Redhawk


And possums (opossums).  Apparently a single possum eats 5,000 ticks per season.  I don't know many people other than myself that actively seek them out.  I do make sure my chicken coop is possum-proof, but other than that, I haven't had any issues with letting them live on my land.  They are pretty friendly creatures, in spite of their impressive threat display.  A word of caution for people with horses:  Possums can transmit a serious disease to horses.  The name escapes me currently, but it's a disease that attacks the nervous system and can be fatal.


Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM) is a debilitating neurologic disease of horses. It can affect the brain, brainstem, spinal cord or any combination of these three areas of the central nervous system (CNS). The disease may present itself with a variety of different clinical signs, dependent on the location of the damage caused by the organism within the CNS.  The organism causing EPM was given the name Sarcocystis neurona. The horse is a dead-end, aberrant host, as infectious forms of the parasite are not passed from horse to horse or from horse to the definitive or true intermediate hosts. Recent investigation indicates that opossum feces (definitive host) are the source of the infection for horses. Opossums acquire the infection by eating infected birds (intermediate host). Most infections would come from contaminated pasture, hay, grain, and water with opossum feces. Contamination of feed and water with opossum feces may occur indirectly through other mechanisms such as birds and insects. Relocation of opossums away from horses, water, bedding and feed storage environment may be beneficial to reduce exposure. EPM occurs in much of North America and South America.

http://articles.extension.org/pages/34184/i-need-some-information-on-epm-or-the-equine-opossum-disease-symptoms-etc
 
James Freyr
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10 years living without a meal?! Sigh.... I never considered such a metabolic feat possible. At least I learned something new today.

So my thoughts after reading everyones replies thus far, that if I want to make some sort of considerable impact on the tick population is to do a controlled burn and just torch the pastures. The pastures aren't all that great, a lot of crap growing in with whatever varieties of grasses, and I'm not surprised after seeing the results of the soil test I had done. I have a lot of work to do to improve the soil, so I'm not entirely opposed to a start from scratch approach. One concern I have is the result of the fire is setting the stage right for all sorts of dormant weed seeds hiding in the soil to get a great start.

So I'd like to ask others opinions and thoughts on the pro/cons of controlled burns. And if controlled burns will yield the tick population reduction results I desire or if that will have little affect as I don't want to set my woods on fire and if they will rapidly fill the void from the untouched populations living in the woods. And is someone going to tell me ticks can't be killed with fire either, and they are just a relentless scourge on humanity
 
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James Freyr wrote:10 years living without a meal?


I guess lucky for me at least the harsh winters gives us a break from them, though we still have an extreme problem with them from April - July. I can't give much advice for a wide-scale solution, but to prevent bites on me, I up my garlic/onion intake during those months. (eating at least 1 raw garlic clove a day + using them in most meals)

The ticks seem to dislike the odor I give off, which most people also agree with lol, and take longer before biting which usually means I catch them long before they are latched on to me. In 3 years since doing this, I've only found 1 tick that was partial filled with blood which was in my armpit. Since I assume you have ticks as a problem for much longer than 4 months in Tennessee, if you don't want to become a walking garlic factory, maybe you could experiment with some kind of oliveoil+garlic concoction. A better smelling option might be planting lemon grass and/or using that in a concoction, as it's seems to be widely said that ticks don't like lemon grass. Worth a shot anyways.

As for the local idea of burning land, I'd say that's kind of silly as it will undoubtedly do more harm than good and likely not even effect the ticks in the long run - as the pastures regenerate, so will the ticks. Insects on a large scale like 58 acres are pretty much impossible to control. If you got rid of the cows, I also doubt this would do much. 15 cows are likely less than 1% of what ticks host on in that entire area. 

If you can secure your own yard and home with Guineas Guards+some kind of natural spray for yourselves, that's gonna be your best solution I figure.

 
Deb Rebel
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I have found live ticks in stuff stored in the house after a YEAR. (we have nasty house spiders, all three kinds, so I have to use the huge ziplock bags to store off season clothing). In a large sealed airtight bag-though it wasn't vacuum sealed, I did squish it out when I sealed it. They can live a long time. Ticks are also in the same family as spiders, they do have eight legs.

Some years back here we had a massive tick infestation issue, the whole area. You could not keep your dog cleaned off if you tried. Between us and a neighbor was a strip of 'no man's land' .. a road that was platted but never built (no curb cut or anything). And his half had a chunk of old garden he just let go to weed. So a breeding ground. His three dogs died of it, our dog died of it, and he caught something pretty bad that messed up his liver forever. (the dog had caught something that started with an E, and was like 20 letters long don't ask me). The vet gave us some medication that helped her but without being able to break the cycle AND get rid of those weeds (we offered to the neighbor to come over and clean it up ourselves), it got her in about six months.

There were the regular sized ones, then after those seemed to fade, the tiny seed/deer ticks. Vet called them deer ticks. They were almost impossible to find in a keeshond's coat. I would daily go over her, remove them and drop them into a jar of 99% rubbing alcohol. The vet tech said she was so tired of being presented with a heeler or other similar sized dog with hundreds of deer ticks attached, and even if she managed to clean the dog and they gave them a triple dose of tick death the next day the dog could be back looking the same. We had two years of it and it really did a number on the local dog population.

Your best bet might be to clean your pasture to start over AND get a guinea hen flock going. I tried to get the city to let me have some guineas and they were so against it, so instead.. we lost our dog. I want to get some yet, train them to wear a cat harness so I can take them from the 'legal' part of my property to anywhere I want them to bug hunt (which gets around the city covenant). My pet may be with me anywhere, so.

Good luck.
 
James Freyr
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I'm liking the garlic and onion idea. I don't know what my wife will think, but if we both stink o' allium then it's all the same right?

Deb, that's terrible! I've always kinda known in the back of my mind that they can be carriers of certain diseases, but I don't think I've ever really realized or considered that they can really pose a threat. They've more or less always been just a disgusting nuisance for me. That's rapidly changing as this thread grows. I just learned the other week ticks can harbor and pass to humans some sort of pathogen that results in allergies to meat, like the kind that would send me into anaphylactic shock from eating a beloved cheeseburger.

I guess I'll be loading up on garlic when I move out there.
 
Todd Parr
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James Freyr wrote:I'm liking the garlic and onion idea. I don't know what my wife will think, but if we both stink o' allium then it's all the same right?

...

I guess I'll be loading up on garlic when I move out there.


Some people report that it helps, but it hasn't made any difference for me that I can notice, and I grow and eat lots of garlic.  The good news is that even if it doesn't work for ticks, you will be healthier for it.

As Bryant said earlier, mosquito and tick treatments are a must in some areas, including here.
 
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I second what Jarret said. Cattle probably consist less than 1% of all their diet. I don't think that will make a huge change.
My personal experience begun when my dog got infected,  lyme+ Ehrlichiosis (this is the hard to remember one + babesiosis and heart worm ( this one not by ticks). Needless to say we were not able to save our dog. Here is the list of what I did later on;
First and second years:
My modest theory on unbalanced ecosystems is that if you remove the apex/predator, most suitable will take its place and gradually become invincible. -This is just an observation, might be wrong, or someone already explained it way better than me- Later on, even though you bring back the predator; many years have to pass to break the inertia of the new "ruler". This happened when I wanted to cut the number of snails. Theirs shells became so hard that it was impossible to break them even if I jumped on. How may a rat (or etc) eat it? Moreover they were reproducing all the time! So I had to act in place of all previous snail hunters. At first it didn't have any impact. So I shocked the system, collected and removed over 740 kg -1600 pounds per acre in less than 2 days, did not gave them a chance to react- not single handedly obviously I hold on the pressure for over a season to aid predators to catch up. It took two more years to balance. I applied a similar technique for ticks.
SO, Cut everything down to 2 inch and did not let it grow over 4 for more than 4 years. It was a tough work. So I burned down some sections. It might have an impact but not totally sure.
Mass planted garlic to anywhere in the garden for over two years. The total area covered was over 6 acres. I would fill my back pack with garlic (that got split the day before) and plant them where ever I want. This was a bit of joy with coffee and music, I didn't know whether it would actually have an impact. It does make a difference for sure.
3rd and 4th; I introduced some guineas for over two years and they did a lot of impact. Numbers were already diminishing but they did the killer hit. I waited for two years to introduce them because I don't think introducing "a lion to a thousand heads of prey" will do any impact. Prey numbers should be manageable.
We don't have opossums over here. I read somewhere that hedgehogs fill the niche, so I have been feeding them. I think currently we have over 140 per acre or maybe many more. They do make an impact
5th and later on; I apply a chemical treatment my vet gave and a herbal collar for dogs. We have a huge number of hedgehogs and I still feed them. We have a healthy population of wild life.
My problem land was less than 6 acres, but hope it helps!
 
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Beneficial Nematodes are microscopic, non-segmented roundworms that occur naturally in soil throughout the world. These microscopic predators locate flea and tick larvae in the soil and enter the prey infecting them with toxic bacteria killing them in 24 to 48 hours.
These have been a big help here.
 
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A few thoughts...

The recent loss of a friend of a friend to Powassan virus (quickly transmitted via ticks and difficult to diagnose) has engendered a lot of reading about ticks. Powassan virus, while rare, is increasing and I suspect will be front and center in our concerns in the coming years. There is no cure and it can cause long term neurological damage to humans that it does not kill (elderly, children and the immune-compromised being the most vulnerable).

Ticks need moisture to survive and tend to stay out of cleared areas, so staying in the middle of pathways can reduce exposure. Keeping leaf little cleared from around areas of human habitation can help reduce exposure.  Ticks can be active even in the winter on sunny days.

Small varmints such as deer mice, chipmunks, etc are probably one of the most important life cycle vectors for ticks. Because of this foxes are considered an important factor in controlling the tick population as they love to eat these tick hosts.

Another method of interrupting the tick life cycle is a product (easily home made) consisting of cardboard tubes dropped into leaf litter that are stuffed with permethrin soaked cotton that the little critters take for nesting materials...ticks check in and never leave.

Studies have looked at deer feeding stations where deer get permethrin applied via rollers that will kill ticks who attach to deer hosts. Concerns over concentrating deer at the feeders having an effect of passing between the deer other diseases has been voiced in some studies.

For removing ticks from the surface of clothing those sticky roller lint removers are excellent.

Military types going through training where they have to crawl through brush are known to wear pantyhose to protect their lower torso. Inexpensive mesh shirts and hoods can be used to protect the upper body. Obviously tucking pants into socks is a basic measure that can be taken. Daily thorough tick checks are an important measure (preferably to a tune such as "getting to know you, getting to know all about you". Putting clothes into a drying on high will kill any ticks present. If putting ticks in a plastic bag, adding a cloth with permethrin into the bag and sealing for a time might also work, but is untested. Care needs to be taken around cats and aquatic species when using permethrin.

Researchers studying ticks drag permethrin soaked fabric through brush to get capture/kill ticks for study. Robots are being developed that attract ticks using a similar method in combination with co2 generators. My idea is to forgo the robot part and simple devices that emit co2 and attract ticks onto killing zones that could be dragged from spot to spot might work to reduce the local tick population over time. When I get my design firmed up I'll post pics and instructions.

Jim
 
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James Whitelaw wrote:
Small varmints such as deer mice, chipmunks, etc are probably one of the most important life cycle vectors for ticks. Because of this foxes are considered an important factor in controlling the tick population as they love to eat these tick hosts.


Yes to this. I've read that in places that the coyote is expanding into as their population grows, the fox population takes a hit because coyotes eat them. That leads to more deer mice etc. and thus more ticks.

You might think about how you could encourage foxes -- maybe providing protected den space or or something. That might also require more protection for any poultry or small animals.

Also, in MN, at least, there are hunters who take coyotes for their skins. If coyotes are active in the area, it might be worth talking to your neighbors to find out if they know anyone who would shoot the coyotes. Respectful hunters will ask first but it'd probably be faster to ask around than to wait for them to come to you. Or you could just do it yourself, though wouldn't be easy.

Inviting owls to take up residence by providing nesting boxes might also help.
 
James Freyr
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We have 3 outdoor cats and they do a great job at our current location of killing small mammals. Back in the spring they were killing machines, getting multiple moles, voles, and field mice per day, but I haven't seen much evidence of that lately. And the poor bunnies, they just want to live out their bunny lives. I'll look into possibly making the nesting material tubes, but I certainly don't want to use anything that could be harmful to my cats if they accidentally got into it. I think owls are way cool creatures, and I'll totally make some nesting boxes to try and attract them and maybe one or two will decide to make a home there.
 
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In areas where it's really severe, I think it makes sense to encircled the home with a relatively tick free zone. This can be done with a combination of mowing and grazing with chickens and guinea fowl. Some people put a chicken moat around their garden. I would think that if your property can become unlivable due to ticks, then getting into the chicken and guinea fowl business business, is an investment in safety as well as meat.

Very small  Bantam chickens, eat mostly bugs. They could be allowed to roam freely through the garden and in all spaces near the house.

Gravel pathways and water features, can present an impassable barrier. Long, narrow ponds, could create a moat. Obviously there would need to be an entry area. This could be made of asphalt or gravel.
 
James Whitelaw
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All good advice....

Our Northern Goshawk's wanted to say they especially liked this part:

Very small  Bantam chickens, eat mostly bugs. They could be allowed to roam freely through the garden and in all spaces near the house


 
Dale Hodgins
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Dale Hodgins
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Another ephiphany has struck me like a bolt of lightning.

 Introducing the tick trapping lawn roller.

We've all seen regular lawn rollers, that are made of concrete or a plastic device filled with water. That's the basic shape of this idea.

When tick researchers go looking for ticks, they drag white cotton flannel over the grass. Ticks attach themselves to it and they are highly visible, against the white surface. Imagine a  large, lightweight, plastic barrel, with fabric attached. This could be rolled over the lawn, to collect ticks. Various smells could add to the fabric's appeal. Chickens and guinea fowl are bound to learn that following this machine, provides an easy meal, just as they learn to follow a gardener who is using a hoe or rake. The roller could be attached to a goat, or other livestock that would naturally wander around the yard in search of food. Perhaps this animal could be treated with essential oils or some other tick repellent, particularly inside the ears, around its bum and other vulnerable parts. As the animal grazes, ticks would be gathered. The poultry would theoretically gobble them up. Poultry are known to wander through grass in search of ticks. This device should help them out and hopefully, they could become habituated to living on ticks. Some of those really tiny bantam hens could be included. They might eat the seed ticks that others pass up. I imagine that if several generations of poultry were raised this way, they could be selected to the purpose. Only those that thrive on a diet that contains many ticks, would be bred.

This device would be used on open lawn areas and along pathways. It's obviously not going to work in the vegetable garden or anywhere else where the roller couldn't go.

The flag dragging idea might also be effective, if they could somehow be attached, in a manner that would allow them to roll over occasionally.

Ticks often congregate along pathways that are used by pets, people and wild life. Imagine a lightweight contraption attached to the front of a wheelbarrow, that looks something like the nose of a shallow-draft boat. It could be set to drag both sides of a pathway, simultaneously. Ticks would grab onto the fabric, as they are brushed by it. Stop occasionally, and allow the chickens to eat all of the ticks.

Imagine something really lightweight, like the inflatable boat pictured, that is covered with fabric.  It could be dragged  through the grass, and then turned over when you're done.  Let the birds pick it clean.

 We've all seen those big, lightweight exercise balls. Imagine one of those with a slip cover over it. Kids could kick this around, and it could be inspected occasionally, as a means of assessing the tick risk around the home. Check the kids afterwards.
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James Freyr
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Dang Dale that's clever. I like the lateral thinking and different approach. I've been musing the last couple days and I think the holy grail of tick control would be the tick version of bacillus thuringiensis sbsp israelensis (Bti). For those not familiar with Bti, it's a specific subspecies of bacteria that kill mosquito larvae, only mosquito larvae, and is completely harmless to all other living things. I like to think that somewhere on this planet is a naturally occurring toxin or infectious agent that only kills ticks or tick eggs and doesn't harm anything else. Nature seems to balance everything, right?
 
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Jennifer Smith wrote:Beneficial Nematodes are microscopic, non-segmented roundworms that occur naturally in soil throughout the world. These microscopic predators locate flea and tick larvae in the soil and enter the prey infecting them with toxic bacteria killing them in 24 to 48 hours.
These have been a big help here.

I was thinking of nematodes today as a potential method of reducing ticks, and read something anecdotal about it on wikipedia. Apparently this is a thing, and I just hunted down some of information on it. Specifically of interest was this bit at the end of the article:

Products containing Steinernema feltiae and Heterorhabditis bacteriophora have proven to be most useful.

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/nematodes-ticks-72724.html

It would be smart to do a bit more research before spending money or believing everything from a single article, but I think this might be a good start. A good approach for mitigating ticks might be an all inclusive regimen of options others have mentioned above.

One other bit of info I came across is that many bugs, including ticks, may be repelled by sulfur powder. I haven't tried it yet but I might do so this fall when I start going back to my property to get work done. I would be interested to hear from anyone that has first hand knowledge on this or other methods of dealing with ticks.
 
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Daniel Schmidt wrote:One other bit of info I came across is that many bugs, including ticks, may be repelled by sulfur powder. I haven't tried it yet but I might do so this fall when I start going back to my property to get work done. I would be interested to hear from anyone that has first hand knowledge on this or other methods of dealing with ticks.


Do be careful, sulfur can be toxic. Not elemental sulfur itself but common derivatives, Sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg gas). Also some are allergic to sulfur and compounds containing them. If not rash and a bit of laxative effect, a few will react with an outbreak of flu like symptoms and a HIGH fever that will break as the sulfur works out of the system. (it is commonly used in antibiotics such as tetracycline and many others) Please, just be careful with anything you try.
 
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James Freyr wrote:My wife and I are buying 58 acres of beautiful, secluded, rolling topography, mighty old tree inhabited, tick infested land. It has approximately 35 acres in pasture and the remainder in woods. The day we came home walking the property the first time, much to my dismay I was covered in seed ticks all up and down my legs, with some full size adults everywhere else. The last few times I've been to visit the land I've sprayed toxic gick on my socks, shoes, and pants and it seems to work (I'm not spraying that shit on my skin). Only had 3 tick bites last time and pulled 4 or 5 off that were crawling around on me. I hate toxic chemicals, the companies that make them, and having to buy this spray which means my money went back to the evil cronies who poison the planet.

So the neighbor had an agreement with the landowner and has had a small 9-15 head herd of cattle grazing free will on it for the last 20 years. I met the neighbor and thankfully he's super a nice guy and I told him he can continue to keep his cattle on the land until my wife and I build a little house on it and move in next year, and he seemed happy about that, not having to scramble to relocate his cattle. Besides, he knew the land was for sale and this day was coming. So I understand ticks have a 2 year life cycle, and I wonder if the land is so tick ridden because the cattle have been playing host. In my mind I like to think that removing the ticks food source will have an impact on their population. But is removing livestock from the land for a few years going to have any real impact? Is this futile efforts if the opossums, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, fox, etc. are still playing host to the tick population? I totally understand chickens and guineas, and I'll be having them out there on patrol once we move there. My wife and I will one day be having our own livestock on the land, but that's several years out. We want to be able to homestead without having to spray carcinogens or wear a hazmat suit.

We would much appreciate any thoughts on how to address this problem in an environmentally and permaculture way. Thanks!!


Hi, James!

Been living in NW AR for a little over a year now. Bought a little fixer upper farm 5 months ago. It, like any other place not in the city, has ticks galore. Tried all the essential oil and natural combos one could think of. Sadly, none of it was effective for myself or the dogs. Finally had to go to toxic gick for them.  Toxic gicks were not really working for me very well. Body chemistry must have changed. Never had an imbedded tick despite travels to places where others were getting them during my first four decades. First time in AR camping by the lake- not a one. Came back a year later and after more than 16 in four days (on a property mowed and sprayed and not in the tall grass!!) was so grossed out had to stop counting.  Last summer worked helping knock down noxious weeds on a farm by pulling them. Lost count. By Fall suspect may have gotten a tick born illness, but with mixed medical reviews by folks have not wanted to explore that in depth yet.

Moved onto this property in May. By June was convinced it had to be the mecca for Lone Star ticks in the area. The dogs would run if they saw me with a tweezer. The eldest dog wouldn't even roll over for a belly scratch any more! Believe it was July or August after talking with a naturalistic vet that judicious use of gick for the dogs commenced. Thankfully, ticks seem to have mostly died down here over the last month or so for now. (Please, Lord!) In between they were bad enough that some days felt one was gonna lose her mind. Even had one doctor visit with blood test and antibiotics for a particularly bad bite that looked very scary. Asked the doc to do a panel for tick borne illnesses. Of course, when they called with the results, all he ordered was Lyme- the least concern of mine after seeing a photo on the CDC website that looked like something else. With all the Lone Stars, ehrlichiosis was the main concern. There is also an illness that some round here have from ticks that makes one deathly allergic to mammalian meat and milk! ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3545071/ ).

Shy of toxic gick applied to the land, tried so many things. Finally happened upon a lotion at the recommendation of some friends who tried it: Picaridin. It's a synthetic based on black pepper. Works like a dream for me when nothing else did. You apply it to your skin. It's been in Europe for a while. Tried the spray but no matter how I held my breath got a slight burning sensation ain my nose and throat after using it. A one gallon pump bottle off Amazon cost about $110 delivered but it's been lasting and repels chiggers and mosquitos as well up to 14 hours. Only two ticks on me since being introduced to it and they were on days where I worked outdoors all day and failed to reapply...and the dog was on my bed. Not cheap, but costs a lot less than a tick born illness.

Old timers from TX have told me that back in the day their dads or grand dads would put food grade sulfur powder in a sock and hit their clothing with it and ticks stayed away. Also, filled a burlap sack with it they dragged behind the lawn mower. Took care of the problem. When I went to try to buy it and couldn't find it anywhere was told it was now illegal to sell in quantity because you can make bombs with it Does anyone know it that is really true or if there is a source to buy it from for a reasonable price? Others on the www say ingesting sulfur (various amounts at various frequencies depending who you read.) Tried it with my eldest dog. Couldn't really note a difference...perhaps it was because the only food grade available at the time was treated to smell less? Maybe that's what make it work?

A local gentleman bragged to me one could walk all his acres in a tank top, shorts, and flip flops and never get a tick. Why? Guineas! His wife has around 200 roaming half wild at any given time. That is the avenue currently persuing. Hatched five successfully from some spare eggs he provided, getting more. A few chickens alone didn't seem to do it.Some of them were killed by prolific foxes and even with foxes there were ticks a plenty. My bent is natural and organic. Sadly, essential oils, gicks, mowing, onions and garlic, ingested sulfur, etc did not do the trick.Picaridin does. (Need to see if it's safe for pets.)  Gonna try full guns with guineas, judicious gick on dogs, extra mowing, possibly try to pursue sulfur a bit more in the future when there's time. The more I read about controlled burns and how they have been used by native peoples for various things the more I would be inclined to try it, if I didn't think the fire danger to neighbors was too great here. If it's allowed where you are, perhaps you could experiment on a test plot Good luck to you!
 
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Hi Tirzah, thanks for your thoughts and insights on the subject. Guineas will be our first new addition aside from our current small flock of chickens when we move to the farm next year. I realize ticks are just gonna be a part of life out there, but I'm hoping to lower their numbers as the years go by. I believe just by regular mowing around the house and gardens that will help in those localized areas at least. It's just gonna take time.
 
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