Lyme Disease and Its Threat to New Jersey
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that use black-legged ticks as a host. Besides humans, many animals contract Lyme disease as well. This debilitating disease comes with a range of symptoms, including severe pain, rashes, decreased mobility, and even loss of short-term memory.
In New Jersey, the only credible evidence of getting Lyme disease is from the bite of the black-legged tick. No evidence shows Lyme disease can be transmitted from mosquitoes, fleas, flies or lice and food, air and water. These black-legged ticks are common in the Eastern half of the U.S. and are primarily found in suburban-wooded and rural areas.
Ticks on the West Coast also spread Lyme disease, yet the contraction rate is much lower. This is not because there are fewer ticks but because certain native lizards on which the ticks feed have antibodies that help rid them of the pathogen that causes Lyme disease. Unfortunately, the lizards cannot survive the colder climes of the Eastern U.S., and there is no other creature that provides the same benefit.
To learn more about Lyme disease, its threat to New Jersey, the black-legged tick facts, and how to control and prevent them keep reading.
Facts about the Black-legged Tick
Blacklegged ticks, or Ixodes scapularis, carry the pathogen Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Unfortunately, in New Jersey, the black-legged tick’s presence is significant. As they continue to establish and adapt to the environment around New Jersey, the risk of being bit by a tick continues to grow.
The life cycle of the black-legged tick is an incomplete metamorphosis, as there is no pupal stage. Instead, the tick’s egg hatches into a larva, the first instar nymph, which goes through several more molts before becoming an adult. Going from egg to adult takes about two years to complete; the tick cannot breed until it reaches adulthood. Both the nymph and adult tick feed on human and animal blood to survive and grow, and both can transmit the pathogen that causes Lyme disease.
Controlling Black-legged Ticks
Because ticks feed on blood, bait-based pesticides do not work. Ticks can be present in egg, nymph, and adult forms all year long, so they pose a constant threat. Because a tick’s first blood meal typically comes from mice, controlling the mouse population can help decrease the presence of the ticks.
Understanding where black-legged ticks live is crucial. Using a professional to eliminate and control them is essential. In the meantime, there are things that property owners can do to help decrease the threat of black-legged ticks and the Lyme pathogen that they carry.
Checklist for Black-legged Tick Control
Homeowners can reduce the environments that black-legged ticks need to survive. This begins with prompt and continual attention to landscaping throughout the year. Focus on:
The black-legged tick uses leaf litter for habitat throughout its life cycle. Ticks need a humid environment to thrive, and fallen leaves help create humidity by trapping soil moisture. Remove fallen leaves regularly.
Trim Shrubs and Trees
Ticks are often found in damp, dark places. To create a humid environment, the soil moisture must remain high. Trimming shrubs and trees reduce dark areas, adds sunlight, and drops soil moisture levels.
Keep grass trimmed short
Adult ticks and late-instar nymphs use grass to reach their host. Hosts include humans, deer, elk, moose, dogs, and other warm-blooded animals. Keeping grass trimmed short decreases the risk of ticks crawling onto shoes, pets, and children.
Choose Landscaping Plants Carefully
By choosing plants appropriate for New Jersey’s climate and that deer dislike, you can reduce the opportunities for ticks to feed. Foxgloves, salvias, sages, daffodils, and lavender are all plants that deer dislike. While the threat of Lyme disease in New Jersey continues to grow, property owners have to be proactive in altering the landscape to dissuade them.
Pest Management Options
There are several green options for the control of tick populations. One of those is the opossum, an omnivore that happens to be good at finding and eating ticks. However, possums are also considered pest animals, as they will burrow under homes and in outbuildings and can cause damage to buildings. Guinea fowl also are outstanding tick hunters, but they are not cold-hardy. While these animals do a good job of destroying ticks, they are not practical in New Jersey.
Professional pest management is a highly recommended option. If deer are present, then ticks probably are as well. A bit of additional information is that not all ticks spread Lyme disease. Therefore, a professional pest control company with the experience and tools to correctly eliminate black-legged ticks from your property is vital.
Using a combination management approach helps reduce the risk of ticks. Property owners can control tick populations by controlling the presence of deer and other host animals that ticks need to survive. Landscaping options and yard maintenance are two ways to do that. However, regular pest control maintenance is essential because deer ticks are a significant threat in New Jersey.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
Preventing tick bites is another way to control the risk of Lyme disease. People can wear light-colored clothing that will make ticks easier to spot. Check pants and shoes often for crawling ticks, and keep them off with an insect repellent such as citronella or a DEET-based product. Even changing clothes before going inside can keep ticks out of your home. (Before putting any product on your skin, check with a medical professional so as not to have an allergic reaction)
Stop The Spread
As mentioned, there are many species of ticks, and not all carry the pathogen that causes Lyme disease. However, it is a fact that the black-legged ticks do spread Lyme disease and are a threat to New Jersey. To reduce their risk for exposure, property owners can be proactive by creating a habitat wherein ticks do not thrive and using a qualified pest control company. In addition, paying attention to landscaping and outdoor pest management, and learning to spot ticks before they bite, are ways to help reduce the risk of contracting Lyme disease.
For expert professional pest control services to affordably and effectively eliminate ticks from your property, contact NJ Pest Control. We look forward to helping you and keeping you, your family, guests and pets safe.