Ticks in the Garden: How to Protect Yourself Properly

Many people take advantage of the long days and sunny weather to devote more time to the garden at home. As soon as everything is green and in bloom, gardening is a particularly relaxing and enriching experience. But ticks also lurk in many gardens. Since the little bloodsuckers can transmit dangerous diseases, gardeners should be informed and prepared.

What are ticks and why are they dangerous?

Ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of mammals. As their eight legs indicate, they do not belong to the insect family but to the arachnid family. In our latitudes, the common wood tick is the most common tick species. Once they have found a host, ticks suck blood for hours and then simply drop off the host again. After such a meal, they can survive for up to a year without further food.

Ticks in the Garden: How to Protect Yourself Properly
If a tick has just lodged itself in the skin to suck blood, it can easily be mistaken for a birthmark.
Ticks in the Garden: How to Protect Yourself Properly
When fully sucked in, the tick reaches three to four times its original size – and can thus no longer be overlooked

The tick bite itself is not a serious injury, but usually harmless. However, when they suck, ticks can transmit the dangerous infectious diseases TBE and Lyme disease to their human hosts. Therefore, tick protection makes sense in any case.

Is tick protection necessary in your garden?

While many people know that there is a risk of tick bites in the woods, most underestimate the risk in their home garden. The fact is that ticks certainly feel at home in many gardens. They are often introduced by small animals such as hedgehogs and squirrels. In addition to wild and domestic animals (such as deer, horses and dogs), humans are also among the preferred hosts of ticks.

Whether your yard is at risk depends primarily on climatic conditions. Ticks like it warm, but not too hot, and prefer high humidity. Sunny and dry gardens are therefore less at risk. However, if there are many shade trees, the parasites feel at home.

Removing ticks: This is how it works

The sooner the tick is removed, the lower the risk that it will transmit pathogens. On average, it takes several hours for bacteria such as Borrelia to enter the sucking apparatus and be transmitted from there to the host. TBE viruses, on the other hand, can be passed on within a short time after the bite.

Ticks anchor themselves in the skin when they bite and also secrete a secretion with which they bond even more strongly with the skin. Therefore, a slight resistance is to be expected when pulling them out.

Ticks in the Garden: How to Protect Yourself Properly
Which tick tool you use is up to you

Removing a tick can be done with pointed tweezers, a special tick card, tick forceps or tick snare. You can find these tools at the pharmacy, among other places.

With the tweezers or tick snare, grab the tick as close to the surface of the skin as possible and use a vertical motion to pull it out in a controlled manner – don’t hesitate, but still be careful.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to twist the tick as you pull it out. Above all, it is important to squeeze the tick as little as possible.

With the tick card technique, you do things a little differently. Instead of pulling, remove the tick with a pushing motion. Push the slit of the tick card as close as possible over the skin and under the tick until it comes off.

Prevention: How do you protect yourself from ticks?

Fortunately, there are effective ways to protect yourself from ticks. Ideally, wear closed clothing when gardening, which means sturdy shoes, long-sleeved tops and long pants. This way, it takes longer for the tick to find a suitable place to feed.

In the best case, you will discover a tick already in this “search phase”, i.e. before it has even bitten. So check yourself thoroughly for ticks as soon as possible, especially in protected areas with thin skin such as the neck, armpits, belly button, genital area or back of the knee – ticks prefer to bite there. Light-colored clothing has the advantage that ticks are easier to spot on it.

Chemical aids as tick protection

In addition to suitable clothing, you can also use chemical aids to help protect against ticks. In pharmacies, there are special anti-tick agents, so-called tick repellents, which are supposed to keep the bloodsuckers away. Ask your pharmacist for advice on which products are effective and well tolerated.