Let’s talk about ticks: those tiny, hard-shelled bugs that can look like a freckle on your skin, which often makes them difficult to spot. And unlike other common yard insects that can jump or fly, you, anyone in your yard, and your pets have to come in direct contact with ticks for them to bite.
Ticks are most often found in wooded or grassy areas, and they like shady and damp environments best. While there are several types of ticks, one thing that they all have in common is that their diet consists solely of the blood from people, pets, deer, mice, birds, and reptiles. Anything with blood is a food source for ticks.
Ticks are definitely an issue here in Massachusetts:
- There are two common species of ticks in Massachusetts: Deer Ticks and Dog Ticks. Dog Ticks are normally inactive in the winter months, although warmer than usual weather can bring them out earlier than expected. Deer Ticks can be active year-round—no matter how cold it gets.
- Ticks can cause the spread of Lyme Disease, Tularemia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Borrelia Miyamotoi, Anaplasmosis, and Powassan Virus.
- Massachusetts is one of the 14 states where, according to the CDC, 95 percent of Lyme disease cases were reported in 2015.
So, how do you protect your yard, your pets, and anyone enjoying your yard from ticks? Maybe you’re wondering if spraying for ticks even works (spoiler alert: it does). Understanding the tick life cycle is essential to treating for them. Ticks typically go through four stages, and at each stage, they are actively seeking a host:
- The Egg Stage
- The Larva Stage
- The Nymph Stage
- The Adult Stage
When it comes to treating for ticks, it’s crucial to treat before it's time for ticks to seek a host and start feeding, because once they start feeding, they can potentially spread disease. Unfortunately, this can happen at different seasons of the year, so it’s important to treat your yard during each phase of the life cycle in order to stop them before they feed instead of just sporadically guessing when to treat. And unfortunately, treating for ticks only when you’re outside will not be enough to prevent tick bites and the associated diseases from those tick bites.
Let’s delve deeper into the four stages of the tick life cycle so you can better understand how to protect your home environment from these harmful pests.
Stage 1: The Egg Stage
The prime time for female ticks, who are nearing the end of their life span (2-3 years), to lay their eggs is in the spring, and one female tick can lay thousands of eggs, making it difficult to ever catch up prevention-wise once those eggs hit stage 2. Tick eggs are easier to spot than more mature ticks, as they are translucent and will either be brown or red. Ticks tend to lay their eggs in outdoor leaf brush, on top of warm soil that has a lot of animal activity (think of a trail where deer roam), and other warm, soft places. It’s a good idea that in addition to spraying your yard, you also maintain proper leaf clean-up and cut your lawn on a regular basis as these are very attractive locations for ticks.
How do you protect your yard from those female ticks who will be laying their eggs in the first place? Start by spraying once in late spring. The feeding and reproduction season for ticks is relatively short, and the sooner you can stop those ticks from laying thousands of eggs, the better. This is oftentimes, the first spray of the year, and it’s key to making sure your tick treatment is working accordingly.
Stage 2: Larva Stage
During the next stage of life, which occurs in late summer, the eggs hatch into larvae, and while at first, the larvae are disease-free, once they feed on an infected blood source, they then become bearers of tick-borne diseases.
It’s important to follow up spring tick treatment with late summer treatment to destroy any larva before they become disease carriers. Once ticks in this stage are full of blood from feeding, they begin the transition to the nymph stage. You may also want to spray during the early nymph stage to hopefully prevent any further feeding.
Stage 3: Nymph Stage
It’s probably becoming more clear as to why tick treatment is not a one-and-done solution. You want to make sure you’re treating at each stage of the cycle, including the nymph stage that takes you into the fall. Before moving into the adult stage, they can remain in the nymph stage until the spring, and some can even go dormant for a period of time.
It’s a common misconception that ticks aren’t active in the winter months, but since ticks can be active when the temperatures are above 37 degrees, it’s important to make sure that you don’t put your prevention procedure on hold once the colder weather hits. It’s important to always be ahead of the game where ticks and tick bite prevention are concerned.
Stage 4: Adult Stage
After becoming saturated with blood, the tick falls off its host and enters the final stage—the adult stage. This usually also happens in the fall. Depending on factors such as the weather, they will either then nest for a period of time or start mating. After mating with 1-2 females, male ticks will die, and the females will go on to lay thousands of eggs before ending their life cycle. As with the previous life cycle stages, prevention is needed during this stage also, as ticks are still actively seeking hosts for feeding.
When it comes to tick prevention, the EcoMosquito approach is different. Training is a key part of our company. Our technicians take their time at your property and don’t rush through the motions. They will thoroughly inspect for mosquito and tick breeding and resting sites in order to target the areas of your yard that really need attention. This, in itself, is more important than barrier treatments themselves. Since ticks can be so dangerous for both you and your pets, it’s crucial to have experts on your side who understand all the stages of a tick’s life cycle so you and your landscape can be protected year-round. Contact us for more information on how we can help you protect you and those you love.