Sunday, April 28, 2013

Flea and Tick Season has Begun

For most of the country Spring has finally sprung. With the temperatures rising the fleas and ticks have started coming out. These little blood suckers are out and trying to take a bite out of everything, including me. A couple of weeks ago, I was helping a friend on his farm. We were walking through the edge of the woods planning a fence line. That night I found a tick that was attached to my rear end. My wife pulled it off for me. I of course thought everything was fine, but after a couple of days, the spot started itching like mad and turning red and swelling. Yep, that little bite was infected. My wife finally talked me into going to the doctor and I am now on antibio ticks, ha ha.

Several of the sites that I looked at for tips on avoiding ticks talked about things like getting rid of leaves, keeping lawns cut very short, limiting the amount of shrubs around your yard, and things like that. If you are like me most of these suggestions are not an option. I rake leaves up and put them in either the compost pile or on the garden spot as mulch. I am trying to have as little grass as possible in my yard, but the grass is being replaced by surprise, surprise, other plants like blackberry, blueberry, and fruit trees. These are the very type things that according to the experts should be avoided to keep away ticks. As a result of my choice to try to be more food sovereign  I must turn to a repellent.

Tick Repellent for People

There are several products available for purchase to repel biting insects. The most well known is Deep Woods Off. This can be very effective against mosquitoes, but does only a fair job of protecting against ticks. The active ingredient of Off is DEET (Diethyl-meta-toluamide). Research has shown that DEET can cause seizures, insomnia, radical mood swings, and impaired cognitive function. Seizure likely hood is quite rare.

The second most common commercially available insect repellent is permethrin based. Permethrin is a compound naturally found in chrysanthemums. Studies have shown that permethrin is far superior at repelling ticks than DEET. One huge problem is there is only one company that manufactures a product for human use. The human permethrin product costs about twice as much as the DEET products per ounce. There are several premethrin based veterinary products that are designed for horses that are considerably less expensive. Some people have used the horse products for themselves and their pets. I however do not suggest this practice.

What if you want a more natural way of protecting yourself? There are several essential oils that are purported to repel ticks and fleas. The most common suggestion is to add 10 drops of eucalyptus oil to sunscreen and apply to all exposed areas.  Other recipes for homemade tick repellent include things like lavender oil, geranium oil, lemon balm, citronella, peppermint and pennyroyal.

There are ready to use products available that can be purchased like Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent Pump Spray or Botanical Solutions Tick Guard 4 Oz. Both of these products reviews are pretty good and both are rated for human use. The Botanical Solutions has been used on pets, but according to one of the reviews the scent is so strong that their dog sneezes constantly.

Tick Repellent for Dogs

The most common two insect repellents for pets is Frontline and Advantix .The links I provided are to the product for the big boys, like I have, the 89 to 132 lbs doggies. Frontline and Advantix are very effective against ticks, but around here only works for about 2 1/2 to 3 weeks for fleas. According to a doggie dermatologist, the fleas in this area are developing an immunity to the chemicals in most of the topical treatments. The problem is many of the things made for dogs will only control either fleas or ticks. For example Comfortis can be purchased at your Veterinarian's office and is incredible at controlling fleas, I have found nothing that even comes close, but it only protects against fleas.

Several sites I have searched actually say to use the same homemade flea and tick repellents as with people only to not mix it as strong with the essential oils. One person said that they use one drop of rose geranium essential on their dog's collar once a week. There are also ready to use products designed for pets such as  Vet's Best Natural Flea and Tick Spray, 8-Ounce. Again with this product the reviews are really quite good.

We will always use something to control the fleas on my dog and my families cats and we are going to try some of these essential oil treatments. If you do end up having a tick bite, even if you get the head out, you may have to go to the doctor. I am glad I finally let my wife talk me into going.

Remember to 
Keep It Rural


  1. I read in Grit magazine that chickens can help with eating bug and ticks on the ground. Does anyone know if this is a very effective prevention/control method?
    I have never had an encounter with a tick until last weekend, and I did not especially enjoy it. Luckily, though, we caught it quickly and it was stuck to me, but didn't seem to have bitten mark left. Needless to say, for a city girl who wants to be a mountain girl, it was a real test of nerves. I will try keeping chickens when we move out of the city and I hope to never encounter one again!!!

  2. Chickens can be highly effective pest control if they are allowed to be free range. One word of warning, most birds of prey attack during the day and most other predators come at night. Be sure and have something that your chickens can go into at night this will limit exposure to coyote, opossum, fox, and if you have it secure enough racoons. Your chickens can learn to avoid hawks and the like, but you may lose a few.

  3. By far my least favorite season, I give all my pets flea and tick treatment to try to avoid any problems. I also make sure I check them regularly just to make sure they aren't carrying any of these little pests.

  4. I generally just avoid areas that are usual hotspots for ticks and other blood-sucking critters, but if you really must go there, Lavender oil does the trick. Smells great too. That, or fumigate the area for good measure before they start breeding like crazy in the warm seasons.