In a previous blog we shared useful tips on how to design a yard that deters ticks. This year I have met a number of people who have had tick bites and know several that suffer from Lyme's disease. This inspired me to dig into some helpful resources for our readers on Lyme's disease prevention. The most impactful ways to prevent disease are to prevent tick bites. If you have been bitten, remove the tick carefully with tweezers and send tick in for testing. Most importantly, seek medical help immediately if you have signs of a bite. Two sites became my 'go to' for reliable information: The Tick Research Lab of PA and DCNR. If you've been bitten by a tick, you can send it to the PA lab to see if it has the virus that causes Lyme's disease. The Facebook page has useful tips on prevention and updated stats on tick infestations. Four of their most useful informational posters are about tick prevention in pets, Tick repellent review, myths, and seasonal pattern of Lyme disease cases.
As a landscape designer I work with clients to eliminate invasive plants and incorporate natives into their landscapes. Invasive species change the food web in an ecosystem by destroying or replacing native food sources. Invasive species provide little to no food value for wildlife. Invasive species can also alter the abundance or diversity of species that are important habitat for native wildlife. Barberry is not only an invasive species, but also attracts and hosts ticks. If you have this plant in your landscape, do yourself, your pets and the environment a favor by removing it. And please ask your local landscape suppliers to stop selling Japanese Barberry.
Since deer are often the culprit host of ticks in residential landscapes, planting deer resistant plants in your landscape will reduce the number of ticks in your yard. For more information on deer resistant plants, read our blogs:
Along with the height of the growing season, summer is, unfortunately, also the height of reported cases of Lyme disease in humans. The first step to avoiding ticks is to learn what they look like and where they are commonly found. Repellents are very helpful. But they shouldn't replace doing a thorough head-to-toe check when you come indoors. To create an outdoor environment relatively safe from ticks, read our Tickscaping blog. And if you have Japanese barberry in your yard, you'll want to read the next article as it relates to how ticks gravitate to the shrub.
The information below is a summary from an informative article published by DCNR in February of 2020 and written by Emily Domoto, Ecological Services Section Chief, Bureau of Forestry. Please visit DCNR for the full blog.
When Bad Attracts Worse
Not only are invasives bad for native species, they often attract something else that can make a situation worse. For example, the tree of heaven is the preferred host plant for the spotted lanternfly -- meaning the spotted lanternfly prefers to reproduce on this tree. The invasive Japanese barberry isn’t attracting another invasive pest, but a pest that many Pennsylvanians try to avoid all year -- ticks.
About the Japanese Barberry
Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) has been a popular landscaping plant for many years. This Asian native was introduced to the U.S. as an ornamental in 1875 when seeds were shipped from St. Petersburg, Russia to Boston’s Arnold Arboretum. Barberry is drought tolerant, grows in sun, shade, and wet areas. It also offers protection from people entering your yard with it's prickly thorns. But this ornamental plant also has some nasty characteristics. It produces many seeds and has a high germination rate. The seeds are not nutritious for birds, but they will eat them anyway and deposit them, everywhere. Barberry has been taking over landscapes and forests from Northern Quebec to Georgia and moved as far west as Wyoming.
Japanese Barberry Attracts Ticks and Serves as a Tick Nursery
A multi-year study in Connecticut printed in the NIH National Library of Medicine (copy right by Entomological Society of America) looked at the relationship between barberry, white-tailed deer, white-footed mice, and blacklegged ticks. The results are a bit alarming. The study found that the larger the number of barberry in an area, the higher the incidence of Lyme disease-carrying ticks.
According to the study, barberry has denser foliage than most native species. As a result, the plants retain higher humidity levels which ticks love. Ticks die from dehydration when humidity levels drop below 80 percent and do not rise back up. Lucky for ticks, relative humidity under a barberry at night is about 100 percent. If that weren’t bad enough, the shrubs also provide nesting areas for white-footed mice and other rodents, which are primary sources for larval ticks’ first blood meal, and reservoirs for Lyme disease.
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Gwen Wisniewski: Landscape and Garden Designer. Contact me. Let me help you integrate these garden inspirations. Choose the links below to find out more about my landscape design service or to make an appointment.