Most of you have heard of Lyme disease. If you haven’t had it, you probably know one or more people who have been diagnosed with the disease.
If you are spending time outside, you know that you should cover up bare skin and that you should use appropriate insect repellents to help prevent being bitten by ticks that carry Lyme disease. What many of you may not know is that your own yard can be a place where you can contract Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is carried by the deer tick. In July and August, the larval stage of the deer tick is looking for a blood meal. Contrary to what you might think, the tick at this point is not likely to be feeding on the deer. They are feeding on the common field mouse. It is the field mouse that is the likely carrier of the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Once larval-stage ticks feed on an infected mouse, they can be carriers of Lyme disease.
In April through June, there is a stage of the deer tick called the nymph. This stage is most likely to infect us because we are out in our yards cleaning up and being in areas where ticks can find us. The nymph stage is about the size of a grain of pepper. This makes it very hard to see on us.
Many people advocate for the elimination of field mice around the yard. However, there is a better method to use the mice to kill the ticks. There is a product called Damminix. It is sold in many garden centers. Damminix is composed of tubes that are filled with cotton balls. The cotton is an ideal nesting material for the mice.
The cotton balls are treated with an insecticide called Permethrin. When the mice pick up the cotton balls and bring them to their nest, the insecticide coats the fur of the mouse. The insecticide doesn’t kill the mouse. The coating of the insecticide on the mouse’s fur kills any tick larvae or nymphs that try to feed on the mouse. This makes the mouse the little exterminator that runs around your yard!