Yesterday I published an article titled 14 Reasons Ticks Are The Worst and in it I promised that I would share the results of my complete melt down in my adventure to eradicate the tick threat from my home and yard. After the initial finding of a tick on my dog, the freak out that followed concerning the removal of said tick, and subsequent finding of MORE ticks, this happened:
It was Mother’s Day and my sole objective was to eradicate the Tick Menace. On the way to the local farm store here in Auburn, I called my mom and asked her if there’s any reason I should NOT do what I was about to do – buy dangerous neurotoxins to use in my yard and my home. For some background information, my mom is my sounding board for all things toxic and non-toxic. I first learned about GMOs from her back in the 90’s, I’ve learned everything about gardening from her (including swiping starts from some of her plants), and just about everything else. While we both know the dangers of the toxic chemicals, we agreed that there comes a time when you are desperate enough to do anything. When it comes to the health of our children, we sometimes have to make tough decisions. Armed with that advice, I went into the farm store with my minions.
To be completely honest with you, I will tell you this – I bought the chemicals. I bought products that contain neurotoxins to use in my home and in my yard.[caption id="attachment_3322" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Image credit: The Organic Prepper – check out this link for an excellent article titled Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Victims of a Toxic Civilization[/caption]
Luckily for me, I have been preaching the dangers of neurotoxins for long enough that my family understands how much I don’t want to use them. My kids, upon hearing that we were going to go to the store to purchase dangerous chemicals, began running around in circles screaming, “Toxic Chemicals!”. Of course, they probably would have screamed just about anything with the excuse to run around in circles, but they’re lovable and that’s proof that they’re mine, I suppose. When I came home with my bounty of neurotoxins (and some less toxic options), my husband talked me off the ledge and suggested that we FIRST try the less toxic options and save the neurotoxins as a last resort. The man is a genius. The reality is that ticks carry horrible, awful, nasty diseases. Most of the chemicals used to eradicate ticks have horrible, awful, nasty side effects for people and pets. It’s a balancing act – deciding when the risks outweigh the benefits.
The Less Toxic Products to Kill Ticks
One of the reasons I appreciate our local farm store ( is that they have an abundance of options – there are plenty of organic, chemical-free (or chemical-limited) products. The first people that I knew who cared about the presence of chemicals in products (in food, environment, pets, etc) were farmers and other country folk. It isn’t a new concept for a farm store to have safer, less toxic products, and I truly appreciate it. Family Farm and Home is my local farm store, they are a family owned and operated business based in Michigan with 29 stores in Michigan and two here in Indiana. While at the store, I found these products:
This product is a Flea + Tick Home Spray from Vet’s Best. It can be safely used ON dogs and cats (over the age of 12 weeks, test first to make sure they’re not sensitive to it, as with any product) to kill fleas and ticks on contact and it can also be sprayed on household surfaces (test first to make sure it’s not going to affect the color of your surfaces). See a tick, spray it. See poppy seed like little dots, spray it. Kill kill kill, die die die. This spray contains no pyrethrins or cedar oil and also repels mosquitoes.
The label clearly defines the ingredients in the product:
Eugenol (Clove Extract) …………………………………….. 0.70%
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate ………………………………………. 2.70%
Inert Ingredients* ……………………………………………96.30%
*Water, Sodium Benzoate
While sodium lauryl sulfate is not something you would want to be constantly exposed to in your daily life, it is rated as a low hazard (depending on usage) by EWG. Pytherins are naturally occurring chemicals in chrysanthemum flowers that are permitted for use on organic crops that kill insects by jamming communications between nerves (detailed information on pytherins found on Natural Resources Defense Council website). Similar synthetics have been developed such as permethrin that is a known tick killer and the neurotoxin found in most of the more toxic insecticides. Other products will have Pytherins (the naturally occurring chemical in mum flowers) in combination with other chemicals that boost the toxicisty of the pytherins. While the pytherins are less toxic to humans, they do not differentiate between insects and will kill beneficial pests (like honeybees) in addition to the ticks. In addition, pytherins are TOXIC to cats and people can be poisoned by them as well. So this product from Vet’s Best that uses extracts of peppermint and clove was my pick. It definitely has an odor, but I haven’t noticed any issues with color changes on my fabrics – I sprayed anything and everything that moved, tick or not.
This product is a carpet powder (can also be used on upholstery) to kill fleas and ticks. The little buggers are adept at lying in wait (their predatory method of questing still freaks me right out), and this powder can be used to kill them when you can’t see them. Or, in my case, to make sure that every square inch of surface is touched with something to make the Tick Menace less frightening. To use this product, you sprinkle it on your carpet (or other fabrics), brush it lightly with the broom to get it deep in the carpet and in the hiding places of the furniture, and vacuum up the visible powder (they recommend waiting at least 60 minutes and up to 24 hours before vacuuming). The company advises if you’re putting it on upholstery to immediately empty the vacuum after sweeping it, wrap the contents in several layers of newspaper, and then throw away.
The label clearly defines the ingredients in the product:
Cinnamon Oil ……………………………………………….. 1.50%
Lemongrass Oil …………………………………………….. 1.50%
Clove Oil ……………………………………………………… 1.70%
Thyme Oil …………………………………………………… 1.70%
Other Ingredients* ……………………………………….92.60%
*Vanillin; silicic acid; calcium salt; carbonic acid; monosodium salt; calcium carbonate
The Smarter Living site from the Natural Resources Defense Council has a good explanation of the risks and benefits of this product. The oils are used in a concentrated amount and can cause reactions in people and pets. The oils interrupt a neurotransmitter that is found only in insects. I wouldn’t be spreading this around outside where it could affect beneficial insects, but I feel that using it in the house to deal any potential ticks is a safer alternative.
Now that we are armed with some less toxic chemicals to use to kill ticks, we can begin to discuss other options:
- Ticks can be eradicated from clothes worn outdoors, pet bedding, etc by first putting them in the DRYER on high for at least 15 minutes (10 if using a gas dryer).
- When you’re outside, tuck your pants into your socks so ticks will have to climb up the outside of your clothes first.
- Institute daily tick checks for yourself, your kids, your pets, and anyone else you care about. Make sure to pay attention to the hard to reach areas (like your hair) because ticks climb up to feed in areas where they will be less likely to be found.
- After coming inside and putting your clothes in the dryer, take a shower to wash of any unattached ticks. Soapy water will NOT remove attached ticks, so you do still need to do the tick checks.
- Backyard chickens or other poultry – birds eat ticks. Yes, ticks also use birds as hosts, but poultry are able to help cut down the tick population because they eat them. See my dad’s bug eradication unit:
- My friend Jasmine of HealthyJasmine.com has found success in an area densely populated with ticks (and also a high occurrence of Lyme disease) with doTERRA’s TerraShield. This product is a blend of 15 essential oils in a base of 100% pure fractionated coconut oil. Some of the oils in the blend include lemon, eucalyptus, citronella, and lemongrass. She did mention that the first time she tried it, she applied the oil to the bottom half of the kids (since ticks don’t jump, she just applied to where they would have to crawl up) and did find a tick on her son’s neck/chin. Every day after that, she applied to his whole body and hasn’t seen another tick – and that was while at a summer camp!
Tick populations have exploded in recent years – with the recently warmer winters (excluding this past winter’s polar vertex, of course), a higher population of deer, and more homes being built in formerly wild areas (yes, the ticks in my backyard were just here doing their tick thing when I invaded and built my house here last year), we’re seeing a dramatic increase in tick populations. As a result, we need to be more aware of the dangers ticks represent, more vigilant in protecting ourselves from them, and educating our children on ways to prevent tick exposure.
For the Yard: Controlling Tick Populations
When I went to the store, I purchased a known neurotoxin. It’s a product that I fully intended to use on my yard and only didn’t use it because of the weather. It’s labeled as being safe for use around vegetables, but it is also made by a company that has no qualms about partnering with Monsanto and donated money to block the labeling of GMOs in food products. I’m fairly certain they have no concern about what toxins might be in those vegetables once the product is added – they already have a higher bar of acceptable levels of food tampering than is acceptable to me and my family.[caption id="attachment_3329" align="aligncenter" width="124"] Image credit: PlantingCrows.blogspot.com[/caption]
Although Sevin products are recommended by some Master Gardener programs, they are very dangerous neurotoxins that should be avoided. For detailed information on the safety concerns of Sevin, check out Sevin Dust is NOT Your Garden Friend by FoodTruthFreedom, Carbaryl from BeyondPesticides, and The Problem with Sevin from HealthyWorld.org. I would also encourage you to read this article about a woman whose dog was poisoned by Sevin – even though only her neighbors used it.
Less Toxin Options for the Yard
Choosing not to use neurotoxins in your doesn’t mean that you can’t go outside anymore. While you still need to do the daily tick checks, there are a couple of options to help control the tick population in your backyard without using harsh chemicals. The following suggestions are from a publication by BeyondPesticides:
Use a tick drag to reduce tick populations in an area. The idea is to drag a piece of light-colored flannel cloth across vegetation where ticks may be waiting for a host. Ticks will attach themselves to the cloth and then can be killed by placing the cloth in soapy water. It is best to drag any areas where you or your pets may be walking – along a path or where your pet rests. Use caution when doing a tick drag, as the person doing the drag is at risk for being bitten by a tick.
Carbon dioxide traps also effectively reduce tick populations, as ticks are attracted by the carbon dioxide emitted by their hosts. Dry ice is placed in a trap where it will emit carbon dioxide and attract ticks. Place 2 lbs. dry ice in a bucket and punch inch holes near the bottom. Place the bucket on a piece of plywood or flannel material with a strip of masking tape around the edge, sticky side up. The tape can be secured with tacks or staples. The trap will last about 3 hours. Check the trap frequently, removing any ticks found with tweezers. After the dry ice is gone, check again for any ticks, and soak the cloth in soapy water to kill any ticks found.
It’s been a couple of days since I’ve seen a tick, but the horror of facing one of my greatest fears has caused me to lose sleep, avoid eating, freak out wildly, flail, etc. Taking the time to write these two articles on The Great Tick Menace has helped me to move past the anxiety and panic that I’ve been experiencing. Having these safer products on hand and a plan of how to prevent ticks and control their population in and around my home gives me the confidence that should they reemerge, I will be equipped to handle the situation. You will probably still have to peel me off the ceiling if I see engorged ticks or tick eggs, but I’m getting a step closer to desensitizing myself from their horrid presence. I hope that these articles are helpful for readers as well, even if only to creep someone else out. Avoiding neurotoxins has a widespread effect – on your immediate vegetation, pets, family, the eco-system, the water supply, future generations, etc. Lowering or eliminating our usage of these deadly chemicals can help for years and there are still ways to kill, prevent, and control parasites without harming our world.
Latest posts by Joanna (see all)
- Take Your Computer to the Next Level: Set Up Virtual Machines - July 25, 2016
- Mother’s Musings: What I Want for My Sons - June 14, 2016
- 14 Necessities to Prep Your Summer Car Emergency Kit - May 4, 2016