Question: My boss asked me to investigate growing our tick treatment business. Can you share some key technical points you think we need to understand before jumping into this service in a bigger way?
— Taking in Cash-producing Knowledge
Answer: I’m glad you are asking before you get into tick service in a big way, TICK, and I’m glad you are looking at tick service as an opportunity. Not only is it an opportunity, I see it as an excellent public service.
The dangers of tick-borne diseases are real, and our role in protecting our clients is critical. While many of us will think Lyme disease first when we think tick-borne disease, there are different tick-borne diseases in all areas of the United States. I’m not as familiar with specifics in the Pacific Northwest, where you are, but from friends in the Vancouver area, I know Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni, pictured above) can be an issue.
There are entire books written on key technical points about ticks, so I’m going to try to get you started. I will say there are resources out there online or in books that will be a great help to you for providing details.
- Understand which ticks are in your area. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an excellent section on its website that shows projected distribution: CDC.gov/ticks/geographic_distribution.html. If you click further into “Tick Surveillance” on the page, you will get actual counties where they have been found. This will enable you to identify the ticks your customers might have. There is a lot of overlap. While the treatment for different species often is the same, being able to professionally communicate with your customers is essential.
- Understand the biology of the ticks in your area. If you have brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus), this is a different scenario than dealing with blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis), for example. Blacklegged tick is a fascinating example of a life cycle: three different hosts over a two-year period to reach maturity. Understanding that life cycle demonstrates why we’re being asked to call I. scapularis the blacklegged tick now, instead of deer tick. Deer tick just isn’t descriptive enough!
- Understand what the “ecotone” is as it relates to tick management. The term specifically means any transition area between different habitats. For ticks, it refers to the area between landscaped areas and woods, and non-landscaped areas. Remember, I’m being general here because I can’t cover every tick situation individually. But this is where ticks thrive, and where treatment should be focused.
- Be able to communicate the non-chemical actions your customers can take to reduce the attractiveness of their yards to ticks. Keeping the lawn mown, picking up leaf litter, clearing away brush, and discouraging wildlife are top points. They are all good examples of actions your customers can take to partner with you in creating a space with less risk of tick issues.
- Be knowledgeable about areas that need treated in a customer’s yard. Again, focus on the ecotone: This includes areas with high weeds or shrubs; fence lines with dense vegetation; pathways used by people, pets or animals that are wooded or have vegetation along them (do not treat impervious surfaces, such as sidewalks); mulch beds; areas of dense ground cover; heavy leaf litter; and heavily thatched areas.
Ticks really are fascinating arthropods. They have interesting feeding processes. Questing also is an intriguing behavior. There is a lot to learn about this pest, and I’m glad you are starting off with understanding your “enemy” before jumping into the battle.