Editor’s note: Kelly R. Jackson takes questions called into his phone recently at the Christian County Extension Office and answers them in the Garden Corner column.
Question. Is it true that petroleum jelly will cause a tick to come loose? What about a hot match?
Answer. Folk remedies like these should really be avoided. Instead, using tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull it straight out with gentle, even pressure. Wash the bite area, apply antiseptic, and cover with a Band-Aid. Because ticks can carry diseases, they should be removed promptly from the skin to reduce the chance of infection and disease transmission. Better still is to avoid being bitten altogether.
Outdoor activities and spring cleanup provide plenty of opportunity for active lonestar tick nymphs and adults to find you. As they search for a blood meal, they climb low vegetation and wait with outstretched front legs to latch on to passing animals or humans. Once “on board,” they crawl around to find a suitable place to attach and feed. The painful feeding site can be irritating for days after the tick has detached or been removed.
Ticks do not do well in open yards and landscapes. Regular mowing reduces humidity,
removes essential protection from direct sunlight, and generally reduces the chances for ticks to survive for long. In addition, homeowners should keep shrubs trimmed, and clear overgrown vegetation from edges of the property. Ticks and their wild hosts will not normally infest areas that are well maintained. A good way to confirm if ticks are present is to drag a white flannel cloth or sheet through suspected areas. Ticks will attach and be visible against the white background.
In rural areas, ticks are most likely to be found along shady edges of woods or overgrown areas. Treating a 10-foot buffer of lawn along these margins can reduce tick numbers but it is rarely useful to treat open areas. Concentrate along borders and fences, and between overgrown areas and the lawn. Insecticide sprays containing pyrethroid active ingredients permethrin, cyfluthrin, bifenthrin or lambda-cyhalothrin, such as Bayer Advanced Home/Garden Multi-Insect Killer, Spectracide Triazicide, Ortho Home Defense System or carbaryl (Sevin), are effective. Such products are sold at hardware and lawn and garden shops. For better wetting and coverage of vegetation, it is often best to purchase these products as concentrates so they can be diluted and applied with a hose end or pump up sprayer. One to two applications during late April/May and perhaps mid-summer is often all that’s required.
Kelly R. Jackson is the Christian County Extension Agent for horticulture. He can be reached at 270-886-6328 or visit Christian County Horticulture online at www.christiancountyextension.com.