How to Keep Ticks Out of Your Home
Protecting yourself against tick bites goes beyond basic pest control. Ticks can congregate both in your home and your outdoor living space, posing a threat to your family’s health even if they grow into a small infestation.
Spotting one or two ticks after a long hike or a day working outdoors is rarely something to be too concerned about. Finding ticks regularly in your home or yard, however, is a sign of a larger problem that needs immediate attention.
If you live in a tick-prone area, it is incredibly important to know how to recognize ticks and check yourself for potential bites each day you spend outdoors. Identifying and controlling ticks is an ongoing process, one which requires a bit of knowledge about how ticks behave and where to look for them.
In this guide, we’ll explore the different tick species to look out for and how preventative tick control can keep your home safe for you, your family, and your pets.
Important Things to Know About Ticks
If you’re new to an area with a large tick population, arm yourself with the basic knowledge to protect yourself from Lyme Disease and other common diseases carried by the pests.
What Are Ticks and What Do They Look Like?
Ticks are members of the arthropod family and can be identified by their rounded bodies, outer shell and backplate, and its eight legs.
Depending on its age and species, ticks can grow between a couple of millimeters and an eighth of an inch long. Their bodies are typically smaller toward the heads with rounded backs and have eight long legs that shoot out around its body.
Some species include features like spots and a black back plate while others are monochromatic. Across the board, all ticks typically range in color between reddish-brown and black.
Do Ticks Bite Humans and Pets?
The largest threat of the tick is their disease-carrying bite. Ticks feed off the blood of mammals, much like fleas and bed bugs. One reason they are so damaging is that they must partially push their mouth into the skin of their host to feed, often burrowing as they finish their meal. In many cases, you will still find the tick with the bite when caught.
Where Do Ticks Live?
Ticks are found across the entire US, both in cities and in rural areas. They are most commonly found in thick brush and tall grass, so it is always recommended that you check your clothing, skin, and hair for ticks after spending time in overgrown areas.
Do Ticks Carry Disease?
Eastern and Western Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are very common in the US and are known for carrying Lyme Disease. The illness can lead to a bullet-eye marking around the tick bite, flu-like symptoms, and long-term muscle and neurological problems like joint pain and fatigue. More severe symptoms can include swollen joints, nerve pain, and facial palsy.
Ticks also carry a very long list of bacterial and viral infections, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
How to Identify Each Tick Species
Knowing how to spot a tick can take some practice. They are commonly mistaken for spiders, beetles, fleas, and other small arthropods, but do have some major distinctions if you know what to look for. Here are the major tick species across the US, their unique features, and where they can be found.
American Dog Tick
Also known as the wood tick, this is one of the most common species you will find across the US. They typically have flat, red or brown bodies with paler tones toward the top of their heads and legs.
You are most likely to spot them in the spring and summer across the country east of the Rocky Mountains, but they can also be found in areas throughout the Pacific Coastal regions. These ticks can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia.
Eastern Blacklegged Ticks
These are some of the most common ticks in the eastern part of the US but stretch as far west as Central Texas. They carry a long list of bacteria, one of which can lead to Lyme Disease.
Also called deer ticks, they are easily recognizable by their tear-drop-shaped bodies which are reddish-brown on the bottom with a black back plate. They also have dark brown legs and small segmented heads.
Brown Dog Tick
This is the only major tick species that can be found across the entirety of the United States. As their name suggests, brown dog ticks are more monotone in color than other species. These ticks notoriously carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a potentially life-threatening illness that causes severe rash, fever, and headache. Though the ticks are found across the country, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is only prevalent in the Southwest and alongside the Mexican border.
Additional Regional Ticks
Several additional ticks in the US are found in smaller regions across the country, but can still pose a major threat to those areas. For example:
- The Gulf Coast tick can be found throughout the Southeast and carries several types of bacteria, one of which causes a form of spotted fever.
- The Lone Star Tick, which, despite its name, can be found all the way from easter Texas, throughout the south, and up the eastern seaboard. These ticks can be identified with a signature white spot on their backs. They can transfer a list of bacteria and viruses to animals and humans.
- The Rocky Mountain Wood Tick is found surrounding its namesake’s mountain range and carries Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia, and Colorado Tick Fever.
- Western Blacklegged Tick, like its eastern cousin, can carry Lyme Disease. These varieties are a bit wider and are only found on the Pacific Coast.
Finding a Tick in Your Home
A tick inside your house is often a sign that there are ticks in your yard. They thrive outdoors and latch onto hosts—such as you or your pets—to follow you inside. Spotting one tick inside is not necessarily a sign that you have a larger problem, but you should still take steps to confirm they’re not hiding out in the small cracks of your home.
What to Do if You Find a Tick
Begin by picking up the tick with a paper towel or tissue and flushing it down the toilet. These incredibly tough creatures are too difficult to squash, so you’re more likely to kill it off entirely by making sure it’s out of the house and down the drain.
Next, check yourself for bites or any additional ticks that may have traveled indoors with you. If you have pets, give them a look as well. Ticks are more likely to travel in with a host that wander in by themselves.
Tips for Treating a Tick Bite
According to the CDC, there are some easy and proven safe methods for removing a tick if you find one still attached to you or your pet. First of all, there’s no need to panic. Not all ticks carry disease, and even if they do, you will not necessarily contract the illness with one bite.
When you find the tick on your skin, use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers to pinch the end of the tick’s body that is still outside your skin. Pull upwards with even pressure, avoiding any twists that can risk separating the body from its head.
Dispose of the tick down the toilet and clean your tick bite with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. Keep an eye on the bite for the next several days. If you develop a rash or redness, contact your doctor for further observation.
The CDC also advises to avoid myths about removing ticks, such as burning them off or freezing them with nail polish or petroleum jelly.
How to Prevent Ticks in Your Home and Yard
Tick problems in your home most likely began with a tick issue outside. However, ticks can find hosts in very skilled ways, including sensing vibrations, breath, sweat, and body heat. Once they find their way to your property, some ticks will even work their way through small cracks and openings in your home.
Follow a few key tips to keep your yard tick-free:
1. Control Your Pest Population
A balanced backyard ecosystem is one of the best ways to make sure your ticks stay away. An overabundance of wild animals, such as raccoons, groundhogs, or opossums, can carry ticks on to your areas. Remove temptations that attract these animals, and lower your tick threat overall.
A balance of tick predators, such as beetles and spiders, are also crucial for consuming any ticks that come your way.
2. Build a Mulch Perimeter
Ticks are less likely to spend time on exposed ground coverings like mulch or wood chips. If your yard sits up against a particularly wooded or brush-filled area, lay down a 3-4 foot perimeter of mulch to discourage the ticks from crossing into your living space.
For extra protection, add an additional mote of mulch around your home’s foundation as well.
3. Keep Your Grass Trimmed
Ticks like to hide in the cool, dark areas of brush and tall grass, so make sure your yard is not a place where they can build a nest. Specialists recommend cutting your grass frequently and keeping it around three-inches tall at the most. This length will expose ticks to the hot sun, keeping them from making a home away.
Common DIY Tick Treatments
If you find more than one tick in your home, there is a chance that they have begun to breed and build nests. Though these nests are not as advanced or extensive as those of bees or ants, ticks can lay up to a thousand eggs in their lifetime.
These eggs are very difficult to locate since they only need a warm place to let them grow into larvae.
Luckily, ticks and their nests are not difficult to eliminate at this stage, and some common store-bought pesticide or natural treatments can often do the trick.
Store-Bought Tick Spray
Major brands carry flea and tick sprays for both your yard and inside your home. Many of these varieties are also safe for pets and children, but be sure to read the instructions diligently.
Depending on the variety, tick sprays can often be generously spread throughout cracks, corners, floorboards, and your outdoor living space to take care of any unseen tick nests.
An ever-popular natural remedy for pest extermination of many kinds, diatomaceous earth is known to dry out and kill most bugs that cross its path, including ticks. The food-grade variety is safe around pets and can be sprinkled generously throughout your home.
Prevention for Pets
Ticks are most likely to travel indoors on your dog or cat. Speak with your vet about the safest tick repellents for your pet, many of which only need to be applied once a season. Even when they have been treated, check your pet’s fur, ears, and feet for any ticks, especially after a long hike.
Professional Tick Control and Treatment
When you hire a professional team to take care of the tick population on your property, you are investing in peace of mind for your family’s health and safety.
With local specialists across the country, Terminix provides comprehensive, ongoing tick control that will consistently check your property for ticks throughout the year. Their team is made up of knowledgeable and highly trained experts in the field.
Not only will we assist with eradicating ticks from your living space, but we will also keep you informed on the best way to protect yourselves from these persistent pests.
Four-Step Prevention Plan
Stopping ticks from invading your home takes an integrative, customized plan. They begin by specifically analyzing your home and property as well as trouble areas on your property where ticks may be hiding out.
Afterward, they will make recommendations on how to stop ticks from spreading throughout your space and how to keep them away in the long run, even during the high season.
With the use of both liquid and granular treatments, our methods catch ticks where they hide best, as well as by creating a barrier around your home.
Above all, monthly visits and treatments on your property will ensure ticks are unable to reproduce around your space. For the full extent of your contract, no matter the time of year, Terminix’s regular visits promise that ticks are gone for good.