Brace yourselves, tick season is coming

At Outside magazine, Carl Zimmer has a great long read on why the tick population in the United States is increasing — and why scientists are having so much trouble controlling both ticks, and the diseases they spread.


  1. When we moved to Durham, NC, our suburban neighborhood was so infested with ticks that we would get them just walking from the house to the car.  Three years ago we hired a pest company to come poison the yard on a monthly basis, and that solved the problem.

    1. How healthy is that sort of thing? I’m not a wing-nut (err…. I like to think not) but with two small kids I’ve gotten more concerned about the SilentSpring aspect of the whole thing, and suspicious of “better living through chemistry.” But I live in Connecticut, a few stone-throws from Lyme, home of the eponymous deer-tick-vectored disease.

      I’ve seen some posts like this one advocating for garlic juice (!!!) or various “natural” oils.

      Anybody have any practical experience with this sort of thing?

      1. Take your dog when you go out; ticks love dogs. Dress appropriately. Check yourself for ticks at frequent intervals. I grew up with ticks all over the place, but it was very rare to find a tick burrowed into a person.

        1. Two weeks ago my wife found a tick on my son’s neck — it had been two days since he’d been outside. WTF?!?!

          I had a number of ticks in my flesh as a kid, but that was out in South Dakota, miles and decades away from Lyme’s disease.

  2. Ticks ruined what would have been an otherwise awesome weekend camping trip when I was a Girl Guide chaperoning Brownies in 1995. And I’ll never forgive them for it.

    1. Ticks just ruined the entire outside experience for me, I get so stressed coming back inside from camping these days.  I’ve found two on me in the past few years.  The second one I put inside a glass and filled it with water.  

      That little bastard just floated happily around in there for a day before I found out they can live on tiny oxygen bubbles found in water.  A dip in rubbing alcohol cured his ills, but I’m still bitter at them all and their survivability.

  3.  I have two small kids as well, and they play in the yard daily.  And a dog and cat who are constantly in the yard.  Cannot answer the question about whether or not it’s safe.  The pest company told us that the poison bonds to trees and grass within 30 minutes.  To me that sounds like uninformed speculation or a lie.  I read the MSDS for the poison (can’t remember what it was called), but it didn’t really say anything about long-term environmental exposure. 

    At one point I pulled upwards of 20 baby ticks out of my son’s ankle.  If those had been on his scalp, I could have overlooked them for the 24 hours it takes to transmit disease.  He would also be subject to all kinds of bacterial infections, and stuff like tick paralysis.

    Basically, we made a decision between known dangers and unknown dangers.

    I looked for “natural” solutions, like dowsing the yard in garlic.  The prevailing feedback from people who tried it is that it doesn’t work.  Also, saturating my dog’s environment with garlic might be bad for him.

    We have approximately 80 whitetail deer per square mile here.  The consensus is that they’re the major vector for ticks.  At Cape Canaveral, NASA put out salt licks surrounded by insecticide-drenched paint rollers.  As their deer licked the salt, their necks were rolled with pesticides.  This drastically reduced the tick population.  Maybe we can convince Duke University to do the same thing in the Duke Forest, since their controlled hunts seem only to strengthen the deer population.

  4. Those of us in the country have found a renewed interest in guineas whose primary food source is ticks!  They free range and also eat garden insects but do not scratch up the plants the way a chicken would.  They are however very noisy so they are not a solution for those delicate ears in suburbia.

  5. With campers all I’ve got to tell them is “Ticks, Tick, check your dicks!” once per season, and they are good at checking themselves every day. A little emotional response goes a long way towards helping them remember.


      Seriously, this just freaked me out.

    2. Do you also sit around the campfire singing, There’s a skeeter on my peter; knock it off!

      1. No, we’re in Maine so most of the kids are too busy running away screaming from the skeeters for good campfire songs in the evening. They find it hard to hold a tune when their out of breath.

        The other kids are still trying to get the wet wood to hold a flame.

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