Take simple steps to protect yourself, family, pets from deer ticks

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Over the last decade, a true menace has invaded our area.

It's a creepy, crawler with a penchant for blood and an uncanny ability to survive. He is a peddler of pain and a purveyor of disease.

Although he is just slightly larger than the head of a pin, he can bring suffering to an adult human being.

He is a deer tick and apparently he is here to stay. Since it is only March, and the outdoor living season is just beginning, it behooves us all to prepare now for the battle of Man vs. Tick.

Deer ticks, also known as black legged ticks, are quite fond of tall grass and leaf litter. They cannot jump or fly so they scurry around in their preferred habitat and when a suitable host comes by and brushes against them, they use their jagged little legs to grab and hold. Once attached to flesh they bury their heads deep and begin to suck blood. That's the process, so the question is how can we reduce the risk to ourselves, our children, and our pets?

Let me begin with repellents. These are topically applied to the clothing or skin and may keep ticks away for a period of 10 hours.

Many repellents are available, but be sure to chose one that contains DEET or is clearly labeled as a tick repellent.

Remember, these products are only used to keep ticks away, not kill them. But, when properly used, they may have a liberating effect, allowing one to move freely through tick country with some confidence that ticks will keep their distance.

At times, however, killing ticks is a practical option. The proper insecticide must be employed for extermination though and for that, I suggest one that contains bifenthrin as its active ingredient. Various forms are available for multiple situations and there is even one that may be used in a fertilizer spreader and applied to the entire yard.

Just remember that killing every tick that exists is not a realistic goal. We all run the risk of some exposure despite our best efforts at chemical tick eradication. Also, bifenthrin does not discriminate, it kills over 100 insects so its application means that other, non-target bugs will be killed.

Repellents and outdoor insecticides are good, but what about Rover? Well, this is a real concern. Dogs and cats are notorious for picking up ticks and subsequently bringing them into the home. The result is a problem not just for our four legged friends, but also for us. Think about all the places in your home that pets visit.

Tick treatments for pets range widely, but the most popular products are topically applied repellent/insecticide combinations. That's where it gets complicated so I strongly suggest a veterinarian's recommendation for your pet. That said, I have used these products and they certainly work. They must, however, be applied at proper intervals, and they are not cheap.

Deer ticks are everywhere and they must be taken seriously. Infected ticks are the only known transmitters of the debilitating Lyme disease.

The outdoor living season should be filled with fun activities and chores. Don't let ticks prevent you from enjoying it.

Ed Pfeifer is the owner of Pfeifer Hardware Inc., 300 Marshall Way, Mars, and a freelance columnist for Trib Total Media. If you have questions, call the store at 724-625-9090.

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