Don’t Let Ticks Bully You Around the School Yard
Ticks are not particular about where they find their next meal as long as it is in their preferred habitat. Sadly, the habitats of ticks and children overlap all too often. The heaviest concentrations of ticks are found where the lawn meets the brush line and in taller wood/fence-line vegetation. This type of habitat can be found not only in your backyard but transcends to school playgrounds, parks and summer camps.
It is important to keep the following tips in mind when children are outside the classroom:
Pay particular attention to where picnic benches, sports benches and bleachers are located. These should all be at least 6 feet away from brush lines. The same applies for parents and where you place your camping chairs to watch their children at a sporting event. A simple action like retrieving a toy or sports ball from a brush line could put a child in close proximity to a tick. Change the direction of where the children are throwing/retrieving the ball and they are less likely to come in contact with a tick.
While at recess, children love to make forts out of low lying branches and gravitate towards brush and trees. Ticks hang out in shady areas where the humidity level is higher. This includes pine trees. Pine cone and acorn retrieval is a favorite pastime for young ones. Ticks lay up to 2000 eggs in pine and leaf litter.
Ticks thrive in higher humidity. The moister the environment the more likely it is to have tick activity. Keep children away from overwatered grass and soggy fields.
Walking paths should be at least 6 feet wide and children should walk in the middle of paths. Ticks quest on the edges of paths.
When conducting fire drills, keep students away from untidy parking lot curbs. The curbs should have short grass and children should be at least 3 feet from the fence line. Shady areas are more likely to have ticks.
Make sure that outdoor classrooms are located in dry areas, with minimal leaf/pine litter. Keep benches tidy and trimmed from overgrown grass.
Playgrounds should be maintained and have proper drainage. Mulch and playground materials should never be soggy and the play area should be leaf and debris free. Many playgrounds have fencing to keep children in a protected area. The fences should be maintained on both sides. Leaves and wooded debris tend to build up against them and are the perfect place for ticks to harbor.
Although, the majority of tick borne illnesses are contracted in the summer months, a tick bite any time of the year is just as dangerous. It is important to talk to your child about the threat of tick bites and let them know that they can be bitten not only at home but at school and recreational areas. Try not to scare them. Exercise and fresh air are great for kids. However, since the majority of ticks are found where the grass meets the brush line, why not start there when teaching boundaries for play? Daily ticks checks are also important.
Encounters occur when human/pet activity and preferred tick habitats overlap. The above tips can be applied in a school environment but also among other outdoor facilities including daycare, camp, and doggy daycare facilities.
Jennifer Molzen is the founder of Tick Tackler, LLC. Tick Tackler is focused on organic residential tick control with complete service beyond the average “apply and run” pesticide company. The company serves most of Northern and Central New Jersey counties, plus Lehigh, Northampton, Wayne and Upper Bucks counties in Pennsylvania. For information, call 908-612-4736 or email [email protected]. TickTackler.com. See ad on page 13.