Tick Spraying  Alternatives


In a recent letter to the editor we discussed the hazards of spraying for mosquitoes.  We realize that many companies advertise that their products kill both mosquitos and ticks, so we want to specifically address the spraying of ticks in this letter. 

In response to the alarming rise in tick-borne illnesses, including Lyme disease, many communities in Massachusetts have turned to pesticide spraying to help control tick populations.  While we share the goal of safeguarding public health, we have concerns about the risks associated with common tick pesticides used in Massachusetts -- permethrin, bifenthrin, and carbaryl.  These chemicals do effectively kill ticks but pose risks to human health, such as skin and eye irritation upon exposure and respiratory problems.  In the environment, they have been shown to kill aquatic organisms, such as fishes, amphibians and the small invertebrates in our streams and ponds.  These insecticides are also highly toxic to bees and other beneficial insects.

Considering these concerns, some communities are exploring alternative methods of tick control, such as habitat modification, tick-hostile landscaping practices, and the promotion of natural predators of ticks.  These approaches aim to reduce tick populations without relying on harmful chemicals.  Health officials, policy makers, and residents must weigh the risks and benefits of pesticide spraying carefully.  Ensuring public safety and environmental stewardship should remain paramount in the quest to combat both mosquito and tick-borne illnesses in our community.  No matter which tick control method is chosen, the most effective way to avoid tick-borne infections continues to be practicing personal protection, including using insect repellent, wearing protective clothing and doing frequent tick checks.

Alternatives for tick spraying:

Tick Control Tubes: These devices contain treated cotton balls that mice collect for nesting material. The insecticide on the cotton kills ticks on the mice, an intermediate host, interrupting the tick life cycle. These can be purchased online or in hardware stores.

Landscaping and Habitat Modification: Create tick-hostile environments by removing excess leaf litter, keeping grass short and maintaining a barrier between wooded areas and yards.

Natural Predators: Encourage the presence of animals that prey on ticks, such as chickens, other birds and predatory beetles.

Biological Control Agents: Introduce natural enemies of ticks, such as fungi, nematodes or parasitic wasps.

Personal Protection: Use tick repellents, wear protective clothing, conduct regular tick checks and properly remove attached ticks to reduce the risk of tick-borne diseases.

By employing these methods, communities and individual residents can effectively manage tick populations while minimizing the use of pesticides.

Jessica Lamothe, Manchester Coastal Stream Team