Controlling Ticks & Fleas in the Lawn

It’s summertime, so we get to enjoy the bar-b-que grill, swimming pools, trips to the beach, and the smell of freshly mown grass.  Along with all of these goodies we also get to fight off ticks, spiders, fleas, snakes, lions, and tigers.  Oh my!  Okay, maybe not lions and tigers, but you get the picture.

What should we do with all of these insects?  The first thing that crosses our mind is finding something to kill them off completely.  “Total eradication is just fine, I could care less if I never saw another tick in my life!  But what about my bluebirds?  Will they be safe?”  Oh, toil and trouble…

Many of these insects present significant health problems.  Ticks convey Lyme’s disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, both of which have long term negative effects on our health.  Flea bites often trigger an allergic reaction of red whelps.  Spider bites also present bad reactions including toxics from the Black Widow spider.  I was actually surprised to learn recently that the venomous Brown Recluse spider is not common in most parts of Virginia because they don’t care for our climate.

These are pretty good arguments for total annihilation, but what about the bluebirds?  Getting straight to the point I suggest protecting your own person.  Attempting to wipe out anything and everything that crawls on a large piece of property is neither practical nor environmentally sound.  If you are having insect problems then I would recommend treating the areas where you frequent often, i.e. in close proximity to your home.  As for the “back 40” protect yourself with an effective insect repellent applied to your person as needed.

For general crawling insect protection we offer some granular products usually containing Permethrin or b-cyfluthrin which are both synthetic pyrethroidsPyrethrin is a natural, but powerful insect killer with a very short life span.  The synthetic pyrethroids mimic pyrethrins in their mode of action, but they can last up to 30 days.

The short life span of pyrethrins limits the number of insects killed because it is a quick strike.  Here today, gone today.  You hopefully kill the target insect only though it will kill all insects in sight during its short duration.

The long life span of synthetic pyrethroids give you a longer span of insect control at the expense of any insect that happens to be hanging out in the treated area.  This is a trade off because your goal is to free yourself of insects that can cause health problems.

Some specific products to use are Bonide Ant, Flea & Tick Killer Granules containing permethrin, Bayer Advanced Power Force Multi-Insect Killer containing b-cyfluthirn, and Bayer Advanced Insect Killer Granules containing b-cyfluthrin and Imidacloprid.    Generally speaking these products are in a bag that covers about 5,000 square feet for $10 to $15.  They usually last about thirty days and can be reapplied as needed.

Perhaps a band around your home and out into the areas of your yard that you frequent most often is a reasonable approach.  The bluebirds are always a concern, but these products are far milder than the old diazinon granules which tended to litter your lawn with dead birds following application.

Tick Tubes are also recommended for larger areas to combat Lyme’s disease.  These tubes are stuffed with cotton balls treated with permethrin.  Place them on the edge of the woodline where the field mice live.  The mice are the carriers Lyme’s disease and the tiny deer tick is the vector.  The mice will take the cotton balls to their nest thus rendering the mice deer tick free.   This breaks the life cycle of the deer tick and helps protect us from Lyme’s disease.

In summary you cannot reasonably expect to have an insect free environment.  We shouldn’t try to wipe out all of the insects around us.  Insects are an important part of our ecosphere.  Simply take measures to protect yourself.

Feel free to check with the experts at Roxbury Farm & Garden Center for all of your outdoor needs.

Andy Lynn, General Manager – Roxbury Farm & Garden Center

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