Avoid ticks this season with natural repellents

Submitted by Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist Ellen Daniels

Some experts are predicting a nasty spring tick season, with several types of ticks biting unwary people, dogs and cats. There are three types of ticks in Ohio: blacklegged, Lone Star and brown dog. Many people are unaware that ticks often crawl up clothing and can end up on your neck, back or even ears. Some ticks carry diseases like Lyme disease, so it is important to be careful when outdoors. 

DEET insect repellent is often suggested to repel ticks, but if you want a more natural option, eucalyptus oil is known to repel and kill ticks. Combine 4 ounces of purified or distilled water with 20 drops of eucalyptus essential oil in a small spray bottle. Shake before using and spray on skin, pant cuffs and shoes. Rubbing peppermint oil on your legs will act as a natural tick repellent.

Local naturalist and wildflower expert, Geoff Rapp, cited many plants to add to a garden that repel ticks: catnip, chamomile, citronella, fleabane daisy, garlic, geraniums, hostas, lavender, lemon balm, lemongrass, marigold, mint, pansies, rosemary, sage, roses, rue, sunflowers, thyme and wormwood. Most of these plants can also be used in food preparation and are aesthetically pleasing. Citrus like lemons and oranges are natural tick repellants and have strong, fresh scents.

Be aware that using a pesticide could harm beneficial insects and animals that prey on ticks. Opossums consume over 5,000 ticks apiece per season. Spiders, birds and ants also eat thousands of ticks.

If you find a tick on you, carefully remove it with tweezers in case you need to take it to a lab to determine if it’s carrying Lyme disease. Remove the mouthparts to avoid infection. To treat the wound naturally, use rubbing alcohol, which is famous for killing bad bacteria in wounds and can also wipe out a tick for good. After you remove the tick, drop it in a cup of alcohol and place a lid over it so it can’t escape. Tumble dry your clothing for 10 minutes to kill any ticks on clothes.

Ticks are part of nature, just as mosquitoes and spiders are. Learning ways to co-exist is part of ensuring that our natural world remains intact for generations to come. ∞