Tick Infestation in a Garden

Ixodes scapularis tick (CDC)

Tick infestations in a garden can be a serious problem for both humans and pets. Ticks are tiny, parasitic insects that feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals, including humans. They are most commonly found in tall grasses and wooded areas, and they can easily transfer from the host to the surrounding environment. Gardeners and pet owners should be vigilant in checking for ticks, as they can carry a variety of diseases, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.


Ticks do not typically harm plants directly. Ticks feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals, including humans and pets, and are not known to feed on plants. However, a heavy infestation of ticks in a garden can make the area unpleasant or unsafe for humans and pets, which can indirectly impact the health of the garden by reducing the amount of time spent there or disrupting the normal maintenance routine.

The presence of ticks can be identified by small, black or brown, spider-like insects on plants, leaves, and soil in the garden.

Symptoms of a Tick Bite on Humans:

  • A small, red bump at the bite site, which may be painful or itchy
  • A bull’s-eye shaped rash surrounding the bite site, which is a characteristic symptom of Lyme disease
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A sudden onset of joint pain and swelling, especially in the knees
  • Difficulty breathing, speaking, or swallowing, which are severe symptoms and require immediate medical attention.

What is a Tick

Ticks belong to the arachnid family and are characterized by their small size, hard exterior, and eight legs. While there are many different species of ticks, they generally have the following physical features:

  • Small, ranging in size from as small as a pinhead to as large as a grain of rice
  • Oblong in shape, with a head and a body that are distinct from each other
  • A hard exoskeleton, which can range in color from brown or black to reddish-brown or gray
  • Eight legs, with sharp claws that allow them to grasp onto skin or fur

It is important to note that the appearance of ticks can vary depending on the species and their life stage. Some species may have distinct markings or patterns on their bodies, while others may have longer legs or a more rounded shape. Additionally, ticks can change in appearance after feeding, as their bodies become engorged with blood.

Overall, it is important to be aware of the general appearance of ticks and to check for their presence on the body, clothing, and pets after spending time in areas where they may be present.

Treating a Tick Infestation

In some cases, it may be necessary to use multiple methods to effectively control tick populations in a garden. Ultimately, the best approach will depend on the specific needs of the garden, the severity of the tick infestation, and the resources available to treat it.

Mow the Lawn Regularly

  • Mowing the lawn regularly can reduce the amount of cover that ticks have to hide in, making it more difficult for them to find hosts.
  • Cutting the grass short to a height of 2-3 inches can be particularly effective, as taller grass can provide more hiding places for ticks.
  • It is important to avoid mowing near wooded areas, as this can disrupt tick habitats and result in an increase in tick populations.

Remove Leaf Litter and Tall Weeds

  • Removing leaf litter, tall weeds, and other organic debris from the garden can help to reduce the habitats that ticks use to hide and lay their eggs.
  • Keeping the garden tidy and free of tall vegetation, as well as maintaining a well-manicured appearance, can help to prevent small mammals from taking up residence in the area, reducing the risk of ticks hitching a ride into the garden.

Use Pesticides

  • Pesticides containing permethrin, bifenthrin, or carbaryl can be effective for controlling tick populations in a garden.
  • Both granular and liquid formulations can be effective, and the choice of formulation will depend on the specific needs of the garden.
  • When using pesticides, it is important to follow the label instructions carefully, as some pesticides can be harmful to humans, pets, or beneficial insects.


  • Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, or lemon eucalyptus oil can be applied to the skin and clothing before spending time in the garden to prevent tick bites.
  • When choosing a repellent, it is important to select one that is safe for use on both humans and pets.
  • Repellents should be reapplied as directed by the label instructions to maintain their effectiveness.

Introduce Beneficial Insects

  • Beneficial insects such as ladybugs, lacewings, and ground beetles can help to control tick populations by feeding on ticks and their eggs.
  • Introducing these insects into the garden can help to reduce the number of ticks in the area and prevent future infestations.