Tick Tubes

Tick Tubes

(As featured in the June 2013 issue of Practically Seeking)

It's that time of year again; time to check, check, check, twice a day, every day, for our little awareness friend, The Tick. Ticks may be small, but they can cause BIG problems if not found. Too many people are far too casual about the whole "tick bite" issue and in some survival school circles it almost seems that getting Lyme Disease has become some sort of twisted badge of honor. It's not. And becoming infected with one of the ever-growing list of tick-borne illnesses is NOT inevitable for someone who spends a lot of time, or lives, in the woods!

While checking yourself twice a day, every day, is the best defense against tick bites, a good offense in the fight against the over-population of ticks is always recommended.

Here in New Jersey the tick population has become incredibly out-of-balance due to warmer winters and lack of controlled burns. To help redress this imbalance, we put out "tick tubes" every few weeks from early Spring through late Fall. These tick tubes provide a targeted attack on ticks in the place (rodent nests) and during the stage of life (nymph) they are most likely to contract diseases like Lyme and then pass them on to human hosts.

 

CAUTIONS TO OBSERVE

Permethrin is highly toxic to bees and other beneficial insects, fish, tadpoles, and cats.
Please keep the following in mind when making and distributing your Tick Tubes.

NEVER SPRAY NEAR:
Polinating Flowers, Ponds, Rivers, Streams or Cats
(Once the permethrin has dried it is not an issue for cats, however while wet it can be deadly to them.)

NEVER PLACE TUBES IN AREAS WHERE THEY COULD ROLL INTO OPEN WATER.
ALWAYS FOLLOW ALL LABEL PRECAUTIONS!

Tick tubes are quick and easy to make using recycled toilet paper tubes and dryer lint, and while we are using the pesticide permethrin (a synthetically produced pyrethroid that was originally derived from chrysanthemum flowers), our specific targeting causes virtually zero long-term environmental impact when used correctly. (Except, of course, to the ticks!)

Permethrin kills insects while having very little effect on mammals, birds or the soil. According to toxipedia.org:
"Permethrin does not persist long in the physical environment. Its half-life in soil has been reported at 30 to 38 days, as the chemical is rapidly processed and degraded by various microorganisms. Additionally, because permethrin has a strong chemical bond to soil particles, there is little risk of it leaching into and thus contaminating groundwater. Its half-life in water is even shorter than that in soil."
The one very important disclaimer for using this product is that it does kill honey bees so DO NOT EVER do this project or use this product in an area where the permethrin spray can drift onto blooming flowers!!!
If you have an over-abundance of ticks in your vicinity, or live in a "hot-spot" area for diseases like Lyme, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Bovine's Revenge, tick tubes can be an extremely effective tool to disrupt the life-cycle of the tick and bringing your area of nature back into balance.

 

Step-by-step Instructions on How to Make Tick Tubes:

  1. Begin saving your cardboard toilet paper tubes and dryer lint. (You can also use cotton balls, old cotton batting from inside pillows or cushions, or other soft, fluffy, natural material that will degrade over time.)
  2. Dryer lint & toilet paper tubes

  3. Purchase a can of Permethrin insect spray. The most commonly found brands on store shelves are Repel and Sawyer, however permethrin can also be purchased at farm supply stores (where it is often much less expensive) as a treatment for horses. You want a spray that is no more than 0.5% permethrin and DOES NOT contain any DEET.
  4. Permethrin

  5. Select a well-ventilated outdoor area that is protected from wind and away from any blooming flowers that may be frequented by bees or other beneficial insects, and lay out your dryer lint. (We are using our driveway and have positioned ourselves so that a light breeze is blowing AWAY from the nearest grass.)
  6. Spread out lint

  7. Hold the can about 6 - 8 inches from the lint and spray with a slow, sweeping back and forth motion to lightly moisten the entire surface of the lint pieces.
  8. Spray

  9. Continue spraying over the entire surface for approximately 60 seconds. You should notice that the outer surface of the lint is moist enough to have caused a slight color change.
  10. Watch for color change

  11. Turn the material over and repeat steps 4 & 5 to treat the other side. (Wear gloves any time you are handling your material before the permethrin has completely dried.)
  12. Turn lint over Spray other side

  13. Hang the treated material and allow to dry for at least two hours (four hours under humid conditions) before proceeding to the next step. If you have no place to hang it, allow the lint to dry in place, then turn it over and dry the other side for a similar length of time.
  14. Allow to dry

  15. Once your lint is dry, stick a small amount into the center of each toilet paper tube. Enough to fill the middle third, leaving a couple of inches empty at each end.
  16. Put lint in tube Fill middle third

  17. Fill all your tubes and store any extra lint in a bag to be re-sprayed next time.
  18. Fill all your tubes Finished tick tubes Bag up rest of lint

  19. Take your tubes and toss them out on the landscape in areas most likely to be frequented by mice, rats, chipmunks, squirrels and other rodents and small mammals. These tick hosts will pull out the treated dryer lint to use as "feathering" for their nests, where continued exposure to the permethrin will kill the larvae and nymph ticks, breaking or slowing their life-cycle in your immediate vicinity, while not harming the mammals that live in those nests.
  20. Toss tubes onto landscape Tube in likely rodent area

    NOTE: As we quoted above, permethrin has a half-life of just over one month, meaning that within less than 6 months it will degrade to less than 2% of it's original amount and leaves little to no long-term residue. This also means that in order for your tick tubes to have the desired effect, you will need to gather and re-fill your toilet tubes, or distribute new ones, every few weeks from spring to late-fall. Once the snow begins, gather any of the tubes you can still find and wait until spring to begin distributing your tick tubes once again. (You may also use short lengths of PCV pipe instead of toilet tubes, but as these will not biodegrade we recommend you paint them bright orange and map their placement so they can be easily found, and not left as litter on the landscape.)

As Guardians of the Earth it is always our repsonsibility to help keep the natural world in balance. While ticks have their place, they MUST be kept in balance with the rest of the eco-system.
So until next time, toss out your Tick Tubes,
and Have Fun!