How To Deal With Ticks Organically In Acres of Land: A Quick Guide


Tick

Ticks are often a challenging problem to control, even in backyard areas. But when you have acres of property, dealing with these blood-sucking bugs without affecting the area’s entire ecosystem can be challenging. Besides being painful, being bitten by even one deer tick can be dangerous if it is infected with Lyme disease. While you will probably never be able to eradicate every single tick from your land, controlling their numbers will certainly reduce the odds. There are some methods that you can try to deal with ticks organically in large areas of land.

Organic tick control methods for acres of land:

  1. Guinea fowls
  2. Diatomaceous Earth
  3. Opossums
  4. More sun, less long vegetation
  5. Organic tick control sprays
  6. Tick Drag Rags
  7. Tick boxes or tubes
  8. Pathogenic fungi
  9. Small controlled burns

Of course, there are many species of ticks, and not every tick will infect you with Lyme disease, but keeping their numbers down will undoubtedly make life a lot more comfortable for humans and animals on your property. You can do several things to ensure that you don’t return home peppered in ticks each time you venture outside.

1.   Guinea Fowl

There are no eyes as beady or beaks as eager to gobble up ticks as those of a guinea fowl. These hardy birds will happily patrol and make short work of many acres of land. You don’t even need to keep a lot of them. The recommended number for pest control is a minimum of 3 birds per acre, but you wouldn’t need to exceed that number by a lot to achieve excellent results.

Chickens also do a good job dealing with ticks, but they don’t range as far as guinea fowl and are not as hardy. Guinea fowls are native to sub-Saharan Africa. They have an exotic look and are not the most attractive birds with their bald blue and red heads, but they are naturally cautious and fast. They are much less likely to become prey to passing hawks than slow-moving domestic chickens.

Guinea fowl tend to forage over a large area, but if you keep them from tiny chicks, they will stay in the general vicinity of where they were raised.

If you decide to keep guinea fowls, you should get them young and raise them together as a group inside a coop in the middle of your property. That way, they can range over the entire area, and they will enthusiastically provide a mobile and organic tick scouring service.

Guinea can never be fully domesticated like domestic poultry. Still, if you start them as youngsters and provide safe and high roosting places as well as supplementary food, they will do an excellent job of keeping your property tick-free.

2.   Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth is an organic pesticide provided by nature. This incredible substance is natural and non-toxic to the environment. The powder is made up of the ancient remnants of tiny aquatic organisms called diatoms. The reason that this substance is so effective is because of the minute size of the non-toxic particles.

The tiny particles of Diatomaceous Earth, which are also super-abrasive, work like tiny micro-scrubbers on insects.  While they are working their way into the insect, they are simultaneously absorbing moisture from the bugs’ exoskeletons. This action causes them to dry out and die. This method is by no means a quick answer to an infestation of ticks, and it may take between 7 and 17 days to kills ticks, but it is natural, effective and the results are long-lasting.

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Applying it will be tricky in its natural powder form, but fortunately, it can be mixed with water and sprayed over large areas.  You will need four tablespoons of Diatomaceous Earth for every gallon of water. However, this substance will only begin to work once the liquid dries. In dry conditions, the microscopic particles can get to work dehydrating the exoskeletons of insects that come into contact with the residue.

Diatomaceous Earth is not recommended for use during the rainy season as it will need to be reapplied if it washes off. However, it is perfectly safe to wash into the soil and will continue to be useful as a general insect control method each time it dries out.

3.   Opossums

Opossums are like nature’s little vacuum cleaners. These handy little critters keep to themselves and devour anything and everything that they come across, including ticks. In a single season, they can each devour up to 5000 ticks. Their collection method is farily incidental but super effective. Ticks ready grab onto a possible source of blood that passes, and possums pick up quite a collection during their nightly outings.

These sharp-faced little marsupials then meticulously groom them off later. Opossum grooming rituals are reminiscent of cats, and every inch of the body is carefully cleaned. Any tick that has latched on in the hopes of a quick blood meal quickly ends up on the wrong side of the food chain.

opossum

Opossums have received a terrible rap over the past few decades because of their menacing hissing and drooling performance when threatened. But these little guys are resistant to rabies and can be powerful allies on your large property.

Setting up a few strategically placed’ possum boxes’ can be powerful ecological tools. Possum boxes are easy to construct. These little nocturnal animals will happily roam around, inadvertently collecting the ticks off your property before returning to their shelter and enjoying the tasty snacks.

4.   Let The Sun Shine In And Keep Vegetation Short

Ticks love gloom and humidity and will favor dense areas of woodlands. If you have a large property and are struggling with an explosion in tick numbers in any specific area, you can make a difference by opening it up. Letting the sunlight into densely covered areas may not kill ticks, but it will dissuade them from staying in that location which will impact the numbers long-term.

Contrary to popular belief, ticks don’t ‘drop’ off high trees. They cling to tall blades of grass and plants that brush against possible hosts. But any spots where they will be exposed to direct sunlight are also not popular ambush sites for ticks. Lopping off a few branches to let the sun in and zipping over pesky tick-infested spots on your property with a string trimmer is going to make life a lot harder for ticks in that area.

Pruning Limbs

5.   Organic Tick Control Sprays

Fortunately, some sprays have been specially developed to control ticks over large areas organically. While it may sound too good to be true, companies like Green Earth Ag & Turf and Greener Grounds offer pesticides made from organic ingredients that will kill ticks and act as a natural repellent.

These organic sprays, applied over large areas using a backpack sprayer, are entirely safe for passing animals and pets. You can also regularly spray around the perimeter of your property and treat specific tick hot spots organically to get ticks in your area under control.

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6.   Tick Drag Rags

Using a drag-rag over an area that you want to use may not sound like an efficient method to control ticks, but if it is done correctly, it can work well. If you are planning a hunting trip or know that you will be using a specific trail, you can significantly reduce the number of ticks in your path by collecting them before the outing.

Ticks are opportunistic. They cling onto long strands of grass or low bushes and wait for something to brush past them. If you walk through dragging a large, broad, white flannel cloth, any ticks that it brushes past will climb aboard, hoping for a meal. For this to be an effective tool, the fabric should be at least 3-ft by 3-ft. While you are pulling the material, ensure that you are wearing plenty of tick repellent and light-colored clothing so that you can immediately remove any ticks on yourself.

If you are walking with dogs, it is highly likely that they will also be inadvertently acting as tick collection ‘drag rags’ and collecting ticks on their fur. Walking with the dogs can be pretty helpful so long as you are ready to bathe your dogs immediately after you get home so that they don’t get sick from tick-borne diseases.

This method can only be undertaken in dry weather. By regularly  ‘collecting’ and eradicating ticks in a specific area, you can interrupt the life cycle of a thriving tick population. While it is labor-intensive, you can be highly selective about the insects you are controlling.

7.   Tick Tubes Or Bait Boxes

Tick boxes and tubes are a classic case of working smarter and not harder. Whether we like it or not, rodents are sure to be present on large tracts of land. While going about their business, mice and rats are sure to collects ticks.

Bait boxes and tick tubes are neat little capsules stuffed with the perfect rodent bedding. The material is coated in a pesticide that will kill ticks but won’t harm the carrier animal. These tubes should be placed in an area where rodents will be active, for example, woodpiles. The outer tubing or box will biodegrade at the end of their life span, so  you wont need to worry about collecting them again.

Rodents are naturally inquisitive creatures come across these fully equipped mouse-nesting supply stores in the woods and grab bundles of the soft cotton to incorporate in their nests. While transporting and living in close contact with the material, the chemicals attach to their fur, and any ticks that are unlucky enough to select a treated rat as a meal will die before it gets a chance to bite.

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You  may be concerned that having containers of chemicals lying about on your property may be harmful, but it is a very targeted method of controlling ticks over large areas. The tubes are non-toxic to domestic animals and the rodents that collect the cozy bedding material, so only ticks that attach themselves to the fur of passing rodents will be affected.

8.   Pathogenic Fungi

Believe it or not, ticks are not invincible, and they have their natural predators and diseases. Birds and some wasps will occasionally prey on ticks, but they are not a reliable control method over large areas. However, using certain types of pathogenic fungi as an organic method to control ticks is showing promise.

The fungus works by penetrating the outer cuticle of the bug and moving into its body. It effectively kills ticks in various life cycle stages. Met52 is a product developed as a commercial bio insecticide spray and uses the tick-killing properties of this fungus. It can be sprayed on vegetation and kills ticks within 3-7 days of contact.

9.   Controlled Selective Burning

Before starting any fires anywhere on your property, check that it is permitted in your state. Fires are highly unpredictable and can quickly cause colossal devastation. It has been found that regular controlled burns inhibit the number of ticks in specific areas. Fires may be a natural process, but it is non-selective, so should be used with extreme caution. 

There are two types of controlled burning. Broadcast burning involves carefully burning a tract of land. The best time to do a small controlled burn to control ticks is in early spring so that the area has time to recover fully. Otherwise, you may be stuck with a giant, unsightly blackened area throughout the cold winter months. The other type of controlled burning is pile burning which involves carefully burning specific stacks of vegetation.

controlled burn

Conclusion

Being eco-friendly and dealing with ticks over a large area can be challenging. Of course, there are ample non-selective products available commercially that would quickly eradicate ticks from your property, but in the process, the delicate ecosystem may be thrown into disarray. Considering organic methods to deal with this potentially serious insect challenge shifts the focus,  while at the same time solving the problem, from a human-first to a earth-first approach.

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Harold Thornbro

Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Public Speaker, Teacher, Homesteading and Permaculture Enthusiast. If You're Looking For Me, You'll Find Me In The Garden.

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