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Hamptons Life

Aug 26, 2019 10:17 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

New Tool For Combating Ticks

Michael Gaines of Atlantic Tick installing a TCS tick box at a Sagaponack property.
Aug 26, 2019 10:17 AM

As we come out of the heat of the summer season, cars won’t be the only thing moving around better.

With the blazing sun waning, all varieties of ticks will once again be on the march through woods and grasses and headed for your backyards, and your backsides.

Combating the tick onslaught has become big business, with the number of maladies they are passing to humans growing by the year. For homeowners, the fight is mostly focused on spraying lawns and surroundings with chemicals or compounds intended to kill or repel ticks before they can find their next bloody meal.

But not everyone likes the idea of spraying chemicals, so a new company is offering an alternative that halts the advance of ticks at a property line by killing the tiny ticks riding on the backs of mice and chipmunks — the main transportation system ticks use to get into your yard.

One mouse can carry as many 30 nymph-stage ticks, all of them absorbing whatever bacterial maladies the mouse harbors.

The TCS, or tick control system, is a small metal box that borrows an approach from the “four-poster” system employed on Shelter Island to combat ticks on deer.

The small metal boxes, placed strategically around the edges of a property, attract mice and chipmunks to crawl through them. When they do, they are brushed with a chemical that kills any ticks on them. Rather than a landing craft, the mouse becomes the cattle car taking ticks to their demise.

Michael Gaines, whose company, Atlantic Tick, started employing the TCS boxes this year, says that approach is far more effective and environmentally sensitive than just spraying and poisoning the rodents you fear are bringing in unwanted ticks.

“If you are spraying and killing mice with [rat poison] then, first of all, you have hawks and animals picking them up and consuming the poison, but, also, you aren’t stopping another mouse from coming in with fresh diseases and ticks, and you don’t want to be putting poison all over your yard all the time,” Mr. Gaines said. “The boxes don’t kill the host mice or whatever, so they continue to control their little zone and you don’t get interlopers coming in. It’s like setting up a barrier around your house and the more of your neighbors that have it, the bigger the protection zone gets.”

In two years of using the boxes, Mr. Gaines said, a property will effectively be free of ticks. Fall is the time to start setting up the perimeter to stop ticks from finding their way in before the mice burrow in for the winter.

The boxes cost about $75 each and a 1-acre property typically would need four of them to set up a proper barrier and Mr. Gaines, whose company also employs sprays and other treatments to combat ticks, says the costs are about even for the boxes or spraying.

“On several properties, we have reduced the spray load significantly and on others eliminated it,” Mr. Gaines said. “I see vast swaths of understory and leaf litter being removed in an effort to control ticks and this upsets the natural process. This approach limits the collateral damage and just works better.”

For more information, visit atlantictick.com.

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