An integrated pest management (IPM) approach to tick reduction includes the responsible and effective use of pesticides. Acaricides (pesticides that kill ticks) can successfully reduce tick populations, particularly when combined with other tick management options. Chemical control of ticks is generally split into two categories: habitat-targeted application and treatment of tick hosts.
Applications of acaricides should be focused primarily on tick habitat, including wooded areas around the home and the borders along woodland edges, ornamental plantings, and stonewalls. Chemical control is best suited for deer ticks in the nymphal stage (the stage most likely to transmit Lyme disease), but can also be effective against adult ticks. The optimum time to control nymphal deer ticks is mid-May through mid-June, before populations have reached their peak. Fall applications are best suited for the control of adult deer ticks. The following list includes chemicals labeled for tick management in residential settings. Many of these products are for use by licensed applicators only. It is important to identify the laws and regulations related to pesticide application on your property and always follow label directions. It may be best to consider hiring a professional to apply pesticides around your home. See the list of licensed tick control companies maintained by the Maine Board of Pesticides Control to help select an applicator.
- Bifenthrin: available to both commercial applicators and homeowners
- Carbaryl: most products are for homeowner use, some are for commercial use only
- Cyfluthrin: available to both commercial applicators and homeowners
- Deltamethrin: for commercial use only
- Lambda-cyhalothrin: restricted use pesticide for commercial use only
- Permethrin: most products are for homeowner use, some are for commercial use only
- Pyrethrin: available to to both commercial applicators and homeowners
The use of natural extracts to repel ticks from residential landscapes is also currently being evaluated.
Treatment of Tick Hosts
Another method of managing deer tick populations is through the chemical treatment of their primary hosts, white-footed mice and white-tailed deer. Through a variety of methods, including rodent bait boxes, treated cotton nesting material, and deer feeding stations, these hosts are treated with an acaricide to kill any ticks which may be feeding on them.
- Rodent bait boxes attract wild rodents and treat them with an acaricide similar to those found in pet products. The treatment does not harm the rodents but can significantly reduce tick populations. Bait boxes are commercially available through a licensed pesticide applicator.
- Another commercially available product utilizes permethrin-treated cotton balls to apply an acaricide to wild rodents. The treated cotton is placed around a property within small cardboard tubes. To be effective, rodents must collect the cotton balls which they use for nesting material. As this is highly dependent on the collection of the cotton balls by the rodent hosts, tick population reductions may not be achieved.
- In order to treat white-tailed deer with an acaricide, a ‘four-poster’ feeding station is often used. The feeding station attracts deer and, as they feed, they brush against rolling posts that apply permethrin to their bodies. Use of these deer feeding stations is labor intensive, expensive, and may require special permitting from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.