you make me tick tick tick tick tick tick tick
April 29, 2009 6:53 PM   Subscribe

How can I safely get rid of ticks in a backyard with as few chemicals as possible, preferably no chemicals?

My parents have a very large yard, including multiple fruit trees and an expansive garden, however they also have my two nieces, my nephew and a huge, nay, massive infestation of ticks. I was there this past weekend and in the two hours I spent outside I somehow got seven ticks on me. It is ridiculous and pretty much every night my parents spend about an hour looking for ticks on themselves and the kids.

Since my nieces and nephew live with them and spend a huge portion of their time playing, gardening, and just generally spending time outside and in the garden, they are looking for an organic and chemical free way to rid themselves of the ticks that does not involve chickens or guniea hens. Chickens are not an option, but they are willing to try pretty much anything else.

If it helps, they are located in the Ohio River Valley area where WV/KY/OH meet.
posted by banannafish to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Umm, you can't? "Chemical free" means you can't use material objects to do anything.

But in all seriousness, what do they expect to do without insecticide? Short of razing the garden--which may or may not work--ticks, like other insects, live outside and do their thing. For ticks, that involves biting you. I'm not sure exactly what kind of solution they have in mind, but I'm not aware of magical fairy dust that makes certain kinds of insect go away but not others.

Sure, there are people that sell "herbal remedies," but last time I checked the effectiveness of garlic beyond tastiness and halitosis was approximately zero, or at least there isn't any scientific reason to think it does anything beyond flavor stuff.

Granted, there are "natural" ways of getting ticks off once they've bitten, and there are a wide range of insect repellents from which one might find a "natural" option, but I can't think of anything short of killing them that will actually get them out of the garden.
posted by valkyryn at 7:11 PM on April 29, 2009

Block all access to the yard for any other animals? The ticks mostly survive on the blood of mammals (sheep, cattle, dogs, any animal that might roam in the yard, also, don't feed any birds that might stop on their property), so presumably, if you take away their primary food source, you should be able to dramatically reduce the number of ticks.

Seven ticks over the course of two hours is by no means normal. Can you talk about what is causing the infestation?
posted by halogen at 7:13 PM on April 29, 2009

As far as I can see, your options are poisons or predators. Guinea fowl are the only reliable predators for ticks that I know of. That leaves poisons. Pick one poison and use that; that will be the fewest chemicals you can use.
posted by bricoleur at 7:16 PM on April 29, 2009

My mother swears by Diatomaceous Earth.
posted by Ugh at 7:38 PM on April 29, 2009

A warning about Guinea hens...they are some of the loudest, most obnoxious birds on the planet.
posted by COD at 7:43 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ask them nicely?

This page suggests mint and citronella plants. And that garlic is a natural tic repellent.
posted by saxamo at 8:15 PM on April 29, 2009

Geese. If you can stand them and they can stand each other. Side note: They taste good and killing them is satisfying after all the trouble they cause.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:45 PM on April 29, 2009

Guinea hens, or chickens.
posted by Ostara at 8:57 PM on April 29, 2009

Ticks can survive months and months without a blood meal so that option is pretty much out.

If you figure this out let me know.
posted by fshgrl at 8:59 PM on April 29, 2009

Do you know what animals are hosting the ticks? Given the huge number that appear to be present, could there be nests of mice or some other mammals in the yard that could be trapped and either killed or transported elsewhere?

Sure, ticks can live a long time without a meal, but it sounds like you have a thriving community, not some loners hanging on.
posted by alms at 9:09 PM on April 29, 2009

My brother lives in the woods and has a toddler. They use tick traps baited with dry ice like this. Ticks are attracted to CO2 and then they get stuck and can be disposed of.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:20 AM on April 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

We have a tick problem in our yard, too, and I have a similar aversion to chickens and chemicals. The one thing I've found that's helped is encouraging ground-feeding birds, which eat ticks. You can buy platform feeders, but what's easiest (and what we did in our yard) was just to scatter bird seed around the yard 2-3 times a week. The birds come for the seed, and eat some ticks while they're at it. They seem to like millet the best.
posted by Shoggoth at 6:33 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the suggestions, I'm sending them all over to my father and I'll let you know what ones work. Geese, chickens, and guinea hens are all out due to allergies and just general filth that they produce, but my nephew did enjoy the idea of having a dozen geese wandering around the yard.

I think the source of the ticks is the fruit trees (pear and apple), humidity (yard is practically on the river), and the huge population of deer and mice in the area.
posted by banannafish at 8:27 AM on April 30, 2009

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