what causes ticks in yard

What Causes Ticks in Your Yard?

In Lawn & Garden by Jamie

As we enjoy our backyards during the summer, so too are ticks. While ticks are found in woodland areas and long grass, your yard can be just as much of a haven. If you’re not careful, ticks will enjoy you too.

Ticks in your backyard are caused by having ideal tick habitats with moist environments and brush to climb up to reach hosts. Ideal tick habitats include bordering woodland or brushland, keeping tall grass, and conditions attracting wildlife like mice and deer.

What Attracts Ticks to Your Yard?

Ticks are attracted to moist/humid environments where they can stay low to the ground but also climb up higher for a better chance to attach to a host to feed. They prefer edge places between brush and meadow or backyard hedge and lawn. Places with adequate shade will hold moisture in the air, which allows ticks to survive and hunt even during hot, dry weather that would otherwise kill them.

In particular, ticks are attracted to:

Long grass. Long grass gives ticks two advantages: the long grass shades the ground and holds moisture, while also providing a ladder to reach unsuspecting prey. Keeping grass below 4 inches will help keep ticks out of your yard.

Brush, bushes, and woodland edges. Ticks will also hide in bushes, which provide the same benefits as tall grass. Trees and shrubs keep the air more moist and cooler.

Leaf litter, especially on woodland edges. It’s a common practice to rake your leaves to the side of your woodland edge or hedge, but this actually provides the perfect habitat for overwintering ticks. One study found that this practice results in three times the amount of deer ticks come spring. Instead, either rake them fully under the trees and bushes (where they’ll do your trees the most good), or put dried leaves in the compost pile.

Fences and barriers. Putting up a fence next to ideal tick territory gives ticks another place to climb up to reach hosts.

Shaded play structures near woodland edges. It may seem convenient to tuck your children’s play structure next to a hedge or woodland edge so you don’t have to mow around it, but this practice provides another ladder to reach a potential host. Instead, put the structure in the middle of your yard in full or part-sun away from brush (under a shade tree is fine, if it’s far enough away). In the dry heat of the sun, ticks quickly die.

What Time of Year are Ticks Most Common?

Ticks are most common in the spring and summer (between May and August) as this time of year is both when weather conditions are warm yet moist and when nymphs begin to hunt as they require a blood meal to moult. As nymphs look like smaller versions of adult ticks, it seems like tick populations surge during this period, but it actually stays stable. In the fall, adult female ticks seek hosts so they can lay their eggs in time for spring. During winter thaws, female ticks may again emerge if they weren’t able to find a blood host during the fall.

What’s the Best Way to Remove Ticks from My Yard?

The best way to keep ticks out of your yard is naturally by reducing ideal tick habitats. This includes keeping your grass mowed below four inches, adding 3-foot mulch barriers between the lawn and woodland edges so ticks can’t cross over, removing leaf debris from between the lawn and woodland edges, and moving structures away from woodland edges.

For more details, check out our article on how to get rid of ticks in your yard naturally.


Ticks in the Yard FAQs

Do Ticks Live in Mowed Grass?

Ticks can’t live in grass shorter than 4 inches. Ticks prefer long grass, brush, and shrubs, as they need a certain level of humidity to survive which they find in shade. Short grass allows more sun exposure and less general humidity, making it difficult for ticks to survive. If you leave grass cuttings after mowing and you live in a high-tick area, ticks may use the grass cutting as cover to survive when they normally couldn’t. Spread grass cuttings out so they’re a thin cover easily pushed by rain to the soil instead of leaving them in thicker clumps, or put grass cuttings in your compost pile to apply to your lawn at a later date.

Do I Have to Worry About Ticks All Year Round?

Ticks can become active throughout the year so long as the weather is above freezing, the ground isn’t covered in snow, and the air has some humidity. Ticks don’t die from the cold, as they overwinter either under fallen leaves, in brush, or attached to a host, but they will die from dry weather if they can’t find shelter.

Read our article Where Do Ticks Go in the Winter.

During warm spells during the winter, when snow thaws, female ticks that weren’t able to get blood during the fall will become active again as a last chance to get the blood they need to lay eggs in the spring. Since most people assume that there are no ticks out, they don’t check. (Most cases of tick-borne diseases are contracted during May to August.)

The other time that ticks seem to disappear is during hot and DRY weather. Ticks absorb the moisture they need to live from the air. When the air dries out, ticks can die from the heat as they essentially die of thirst. To survive this, ticks hibernate close to the ground to wait out temperatures. But don’t rely on this — you may walk through pockets of cool humidity without noticing, and those ticks won’t be hibernating.

Use tick precautions throughout the year, unless temperatures fall below freezing and snow covers the ground. Wear long clothing, use tick-repellent, and check for ticks after going into tick-friendly habitats.

What Will Make A Tick Back Out?

Once a tick has bitten you, nothing will make a tick release you until it’s finished feeding. Attempting to use nail polish or vaseline (or burn the tick) will only delay removal, which puts you or your loved one at a higher risk of contracting tick-borne illnesses. The best way to remove a tick is to manually detach it with tweezers. You will lower your risk of infection by removing it as soon as possible, and studies have disproved the theory that squeezing the tick can affect transmission rates.