Ticks are small, but after recent mild winters, they could cause big problems for Oklahomans this summer.
“We didn’t have a winter that could impact tick populations and that means our tick season is going to be longer and could potentially be more intense if the temperatures stay in normal ranges for this time of year,” said Justin Talley, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension livestock entomologist.
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No significant hard freezes, particularly this past winter, and adequately wet springs have translated into increased opportunities for ticks as well as common hosts of the pest, such as deer, opossum and raccoons, to survive and thrive because the food supply is plentiful.
“Not only do you have ideal environmental conditions, but you also have ideal pasture conditions that allow wild animals to import tick populations,” Talley said. “The same goes for domesticated animals like cattle, horses and dogs, which also serve as hosts for ticks.”
Homeowners may consider treating their yards to control for ticks, especially on properties located next to natural habitats and wooded areas with tall vegetation or trees. The idea is to establish a boundary between the property and the natural habitat or wooded area.
Multiple tick-control products are available, both in granular and spray form. These products can be purchased at any home improvement store and will be labelled as effective against ticks.
Treating wooded areas will require a high-pressure sprayer that can turn over vegetation. Homeowners who do not have access to the proper equipment may contact a professional pest control operator for assistance.
How long a product remains effective can vary, though, and depends on factors such as the weather and the severity of the tick population in the yard.
“Sprays can be diluted by rain and heavy dew, but some granular products are activated by water. Just be aware of the forecast to get the most out of your tick control program,” Talley said. “To determine how bad the ticks are in your yard, take a walk around the area and see how many ticks you attract. Wear light colored clothing so it’ll be easier to see them.”
Finally, a strong pest control program for pets also can help manage a yard’s tick population.
“Pets are the number one access for ticks getting in the house. Animals will go into wooded habitats and bring back ticks, so pet owners should keep their tick protection up to date whether it’s a spot, pill or collar,” Talley said. “For Oklahoma, this is a year-round process for pets. You can’t take off any month because we have staggering tick populations that can affect your pets.”