Readers have asked for an update on my experience with tick tubes, so here it is. In June, I wrote a post about how we installed “tick tubes” around our house, in the woodshed, and flower beds. Pictured above, the tubes are filled with permethrin-laced cotton wool, which mice and chipmunks take and use to make their nests. White footed mice and other small rodents living on the edge of forests are believed to be the main vector for ticks, according to most sources. The permethrin on the cotton wool kills the ticks on the rodents.
Summer is coming to a close, and we have not seen a tick anywhere, on us or the dog, since we put out the tubes. Less than half of our land is forest, but we do live on the edge of it, making our house a hotbed for tick action.
The doctor has said that ticks hate the summer months because they only like cool, moist conditions, so this could be the reason we haven’t seen one. Further, I have been hiking around the Catskills all summer and not seen a tick on me or the dog.* I use Frontline on the dog and spray his collar with an essential oil mixture. Find the recipe for that here. I also spray myself with 20% DEET and spray my shoes with the essential oil mixture.
Something else that’s noteworthy: driving back to my house on a Saturday night, my headlights caught a possum coming down my mountain. He ran across the road, which is apparently unusual because they usually play dead until the car passes, but this guy ran after we had stopped for him. Possums eat a lot of ticks, so says The Cary Institute, as do chickens. A single possum eats 4000 ticks a week. Could this possum, and his family, be feeding on my ridge?
I’ve been saving the cardboard tubes from paper towels and toilet rolls all summer and will be making my own “tick tubes” with permethrin. I’m aware that permethrin is highly toxic to the environment, so I’m using them sparingly in places where there is obviously very high rodent traffic like the woodshed and will focus on ways to encourage the possum.
* Here’s the thing about hiking though: I hiked in the same place as a neighbor in July and she caught a few ticks and I didn’t. The funny thing is that she stayed mostly on the road and I went up the mountain into the woods. The plot thickens.