If you live in a Lyme disease area and feed the birds, you might get Lyme disease in your own backyard. Here’s what makes that possible and how you can make your yard safe.
When you provide food for birds, a lot of other animals eat that food as well. Squirrels and chipmunks eat during the day. The mice come at night, especially white-footed mice pictured above at a peanut feeder.
Animals live close to their food sources so they live in your backyard or even your house. Here’s a favorite mouse and chipmunk home — the nooks and crannies of stone walls.
Stone wall (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The abundance of birds and rodents in your yard attracts predators: hawks, owls, cats and even ticks. You’ll see the big predators but you might not notice the tiny ones. Adult black-footed ticks are very hungry in October and November so watch out.
Birdseed –> mice –> ticks –> Here’s the Lyme disease connection: White-footed mice are reservoirs for Lyme disease so the black-footed ticks that feed on your backyard mice may be infected.
What to do?
It’s impossible to get rid of all the mice — even if you stop feeding the birds — but you can get rid of ticks, and that’s what counts in this battle against Lyme disease.
The mice will help you do it. Mice like soft fluffy bedding in their nests and will carry it into their secret hiding places. If you give them anti-tick bedding it kills the ticks on them and in their nests.
This ingenious defense is described here at TickEncounter.org. In their photo below, a mouse is gathering anti-tick bedding — permethrin-sprayed cottonballs — from the blue-green tube.
White-footed mouse with anti-tick tube and cottonball bedding (photo from tickencounter.org)
You can make your own tubes (cottonballs, paper tubes, Permethrin) or buy them complete with instructions at ticktubes.com. Be sure to read about this technique at Tick Encounter before you begin. And then …
No more ticks!
p.s. You’ll see at Tick Encounter that July and August are the optimal time for setting out Tick Tubes. Sorry my timing is off.
p.s. Be sure to read the comments about Permethrin hazards. It is very bad for pets!
(photo credits: Click on the images to see the originals in context
White-footed mouse at night by Rob Ireton, Creative Commons license on Flickr,
Stone wall photo from Wikimedia Commons,
Chart of black-legged tick life stages from Wikimedia Commons,
White-footed mouse with anti-tick tube and cottonball bedding from tickencounter.org)