RSS Feeds

The tubes that take out ticks!

Friday - 4/6/2012, 10:33am  ET

Simple tubes can help eliminate these guys. (Michael D. Raupp)

Tick tubes work 'amazingly' well

Mike McGrath, WTOP garden editor


Mike McGrath,

Meet Mike at Willowsford Next Saturday, April 14

Mike will give garden talks at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and give you a free tomato or lettuce plant to take home as you tour this new garden-centric community in Loudoun County. Locally-grown foods will also share the spotlight, as well as hayrides and other free family fun.

The Tubes That Take Out Ticks!

Frederick must be tick central! Jo, David, and Katie are just a few of the dozens of listeners in that area who emailed me for details after I discussed Tick Tubes last weekend. Now, whenever you hear me mention a product or technique, you'll find all the details here on and Tick Tubes were and are no exception.

Tick tubes are one of my favorite tick-prevention devices. They're cardboard tubes filled with cotton balls soaked in a pesticide called permethrin that's especially deadly to ticks. You spread the tubes around outside, the field mice that are the REAL hosts of the so-called deer ticks that spread Lyme and other dreaded diseases take the cotton balls to use as bedding, and the pesticide kills all the ticks in those cozy mouse nests for months.

Used properly, these simple tubes can reduce the ticks on your property by 90 percent with no spraying and no release of any pesticide into the environment. Heck, they don't even hurt the mice!

More Ways to Stop Ticks

Our email overfloweth with requests for tick control advice from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and D.C. So, in addition to spreading Tick Tubes around your property:

  • Keep brushy areas near your home mowed and dry; ticks wait for you in damp, shady tall grass and weeds—not on mowed lawns.

  • Don't use DEET. It's toxic to you and not very effective against ticks. Instead, treat sets of clothing you'll wear outdoors with sprays containing one half of one percent permethin. It's available at hunting and fishing stores under brand names like "Duranon" and "Permanone." These clothing sprays are very safe, highly effective and last through several washings. You can also buy clothing that has been pre-treated with the highly effective insect and arachnid repellent, "Insect Shield" is one major brand.

Knock Out Nasty Gnats

Bob in Potomac Falls writes: "After that mild winter, the gnats are out of control. I've heard your advice on other flying varmints, but what can be done to control gnats?"

The biting gnats that cause us such misery are related to mosquitoes, and their control is much the same, Bob.

  • Get rid of all standing water on your property, especially in hidden areas like your gutters.

  • Water your lawn deeply but infrequently; daily watering will breed gnats like mad.

  • Garlic oil sprays like "Garlic Barrier" and "Mosquito Barrier" will keep them out of dedicated outdoor areas for several weeks.

  • Place little dishes of vinegar on outdoor tables to trap and drown gnats.

  • And put some yellow sticky traps, available at any garden center for use against houseplant pests like white flies and aphids, on your garden hat. It'll be covered with gnats when you bring your un-bitten self inside.

Does Warm Winter = Early Tomato Planting?

Tom in Potomac Falls and Lynn in Rockville are among many listeners asking if our unusually warm weather means they can plant edibles like tomatoes and squash early this year.

The short answer is no. The longer, more detailed answer is no.

Like Mutual Funds, past performance is no assurance of future success. We still have a solid month to go before frost becomes unlikely, and the current ten-day forecast predicts ten straight nights of weather in the 30s and low 40s -- that's death on a stick to tropical plants like tomatoes, peppers and squash.

Wait until May, as usual. Then wait for nighttime temperatures to stay reliably in the 50s and above before you plant. Actual frost isn't the only issue. These tropical plants may do poorly all season if they get a chilly start.

Wants Tulips to Return? Leave the Leaves!

Peggy in Silver Spring sends a timely tale. She writes: "I just wanted to thank you for your advice last year to resist the urge to cut off the leaves of my bulb plants after they had flowered, and instead leave them alone until they turned brown. I also stopped using tree fertilizer spikes on my under-performing dogwood and azaleas. This spring, I have a flower-laden dogwood, every bulb is blooming, and our azaleas greened out faster than any others in our neighborhood and the buds look fabulous. Thanks for making our spring!"

Thank you, Peggy—and let this be a reminder to all—plants flower better without chemicals -- especially those AWFUL ‘spikes of death' -- and if you want Spring bulb blooms to return, you MUST leave the green leaves alone until they turn brown.

Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)