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Deer-Tick Control

Deer-Proof Plants Reduce Risks of Plant Damage, Lyme Disease

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In mild winters creeping juniper will spice up the winter landscaping, as this photo shows.

Bambi tends not to eat creeping juniper.

David Beaulieu

If you're interested in deer-tick control, then you should be seeking deer-resistant plants for your landscaping. Not only will this step help control those hoofed marauders, but it is also critical for Lyme disease prevention. The use of such plants supplements repellents, fencing, noise-makers and other gadgets, such as the Scarecrow Sprinkler designed to keep Bambi away, and, of course, spraying to kill ticks.

Keeping Bambi out of the yard has been important to gardeners for a long time. Deer damage to plants can be costly. But when Lyme disease came along, the problem was elevated to a higher level of importance. It has now become a health matter, not just a financial matter. There's a greater need now to keep deer ticks away than to keep Bambi away, per se (although controlling the latter helps control the former, too, so you're killing two birds with one stone). Doing so could save you much more now than just money: if you practice effective deer-tick control, it could save you from some awful health problems.

Although a hungry Bambi will be drawn to almost any plant, the landscaper's best long-term option may well lie in a landscape plan that prescribes deer-proof plants. Simply planting what Bambi usually disdains to eat may not seem as strong a deer-proofing measure as surrounding your property with fencing, I admit. But then again, building a fortress around your property has severe aesthetic drawbacks. By contrast, deer-proof plants can be every bit as attractive as the specimens you currently grow in your landscape. Deer-proof plants are also a heck of a lot less expensive than fences.

If your attitude is, "I just let Bambi come in and munch away; I enjoy viewing wildlife," please be aware that you may have to adjust your lifestyle accordingly. This pest, however cute, can harbor the deer ticks that carry Lyme disease. The more they come to graze on your property, the greater the chances of you encountering the disease-bearing ticks. So if you're not going to practice effective deer-tick control, at least take the proper precautions to prevent contracting Lyme disease.

One such precaution is to check your body thoroughly for the presence of ticks when coming in after being out in the yard. Deer ticks, in particular, are so small that you can't rely on the presence of pain as an indicator that you've been bitten. But even in the case of other types of ticks, most victims are not immediately aware of it when they've been bitten by a tick. In addition to scanning your own body for ticks, you'll have to check the bodies of your dogs and cats. The ticks, by the way, are only the carriers of the disease. The true culprit is a spirochete bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted to wild animals, farm animals, cats, dogs and humans through tick bites.

Lyme disease is named after the town of Lyme, Connecticut (U.S.). Lyme disease burst upon the scene in 1977 when arthritis was found in a number of children in the vicinity of that charming town on the banks of the Connecticut River.

One particular tick, Ixodes scapularis (also sometimes given as Ixodes dammini), commonly called the "deer tick," is the type of tick responsible for the majority of cases of Lyme disease in the northeastern United States (the birthplace of Lyme disease), but other types of ticks are carriers in other regions. There are three stages in this tick's life cycle: larva, nymph and adult. In both the larval stage and the nymphal stage, their favorite host is the white-footed mouse. It is the adult ticks that feed on Bambi's lot. But they use a different host at each stage of their life cycle.

Deer-Proof Plants for Lyme Disease Prevention

If you're concerned about catching Lyme disease but don't want to go through the annoyance of scouring yourself from head to foot daily, checking for ticks, the logical choice is to try to keep Bambi away. One way to achieve this is to stick with a landscape plan consisting of deer-proof plants -- specimens that Bambi doesn't find appetizing -- the subject of Page 2....

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