By Angela M. Tucker, Ph.D., B.C.E.
Protection from ticks should be top of mind for not only homeowners, but commercial facility owners as well. According to the CDC, these pests cause an estimated 300,000 cases of Lyme disease each year, in addition to cases of other tick-borne illnesses, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever. While ticks are not considered a “structural infesting pest” (meaning they are not likely to live and reproduce successfully in a structure), any property with a wooded area nearby or a transition zone between a well-manicured lawn and a non-landscaped area could provide harborage for ticks.
Because these environments can occur near both homes and workplaces, it is important that commercial facility managers understand these pests and how to protect against them. These efforts include ensuring the grounds are well-kept to deter ticks from residing on their property and working with landscaping partners or grounds staff on preventive measures.
What Might Draw Ticks to a Property?
Ticks are outdoor organisms that thrive in naturally occurring grasses and habitats. If a property has a wooded area or a transition zone between landscaped grounds and natural, grassy areas, then there is risk of ticks living nearby. In addition, dense ground coverings and small patches of overgrown grass can become secondary tick habitats in the middle of a well-maintained lawn. These habitats provide harborage for developing ticks, as well as a location for an adult female to lay her eggs.
How Can Ticks Enter a Facility?
Ticks commonly enter structures by hitching a ride on unsuspecting people, pets, or nuisance wildlife. The person or animal that they are attached to is likely their food until they are done feeding, when they will often drop off and begin their search for an optimal area to rest or hide.
Luckily, the greater indoors is not an ideal habitat for ticks and they are not likely to survive for long once entering. However, while a single tick is unlikely to lead to an infestation inside, the person or animal that brought the pest in might already be affected. Individuals bitten by ticks may experience a range of symptoms, as well as the risk of exposure to tick-borne illnesses. Anyone that suspects they have been bitten by a tick and are experiencing symptoms should consult a medical doctor.
What Are Best Practices to Deter Ticks?
Facility managers should ensure their grounds are well-kept and manicured to deter ticks from residing on their property. Landscaping partners or grounds staff should consider building a border of attractive rock, gravel or concrete between the lawn and outdoor public resting areas such as patios. Doing so will reduce the likelihood of employees or visitors unknowingly encountering ticks while outdoors.
Other threats to a facility and its tick protection efforts are animals that nest close to or on the structure and animals that spend time both indoors and outdoors. Facility managers should consult with a pest management professional on discouraging nesting on the property. Routine services for tick control can also reduce the tick population on the property.
What steps should facility owners take to help ensure their property Is tick-free?
Grounds crew members should inspect properties at least quarterly as part of a preventive measure against ticks, and pests in general. Ticks are non-insect arthropods, and some species can be active in temperatures as low as 45 degrees. Because of this, it is just as important to maintain the grounds during colder, winter months as in the summer to help protect facility employees and visitors. If outdoor temperatures rise above 45 degrees for even a few days, ticks can become active and start looking for a host.
If a tick is found in a facility, managers should hire a pest control company to inspect the outside grounds and discuss tick prevention with employees. Especially during prime tick season between late spring and early fall, facility managers may benefit from working with a qualified pest control company to provide employee training regarding ticks and personal protection.
In order to safeguard employees and guests, tick protection should be a priority year-round. If facility managers suspect their property may be harboring tick populations, they should implement simple preventive measures, such as raking leaves, mowing the lawn, and keeping transition zones as far from the structure as possible, and work with their pest control partner to arrange an inspection and, if necessary, treatment.
Tucker is an expert in entomology with leading commercial pest management provider Terminix, based in Memphis, TN. She is a manager of technical services and provides technical support for a variety of Terminix and ServiceMaster business units. Dr. Tucker creates new and updates existing service line protocols to reflect current industry standards.