Take precautions; watch out for ticks this season

Published in the Danbury News Times, April 22, 2009
By Shayne Newman
contributing Writer

I am a numbers guy. I have a degree in finance and spend the better part of my day poring over spreadsheets, budgets and the bottom line.

My wife affectionately — or not so affectionately — calls me “Rain-man” as I am often immersed in numbers. It’s uncanny, she says, how I can be so analytical and then at ease in the aesthetics of landscaping, the beauty of the outdoors.

At close examination, there is science in nature and mathematical patterns abound. Because I can’t just let things unfold or bloom as it were, undocumented, I have my “plant notebook.”

Labeled as such in big block letters by my older daughter, Lili (complete with a rendering of what I can only guess is a sunflower), the notebook lists 11 years of first blooms.

Lili, now 12, has a good eye and helps me with my records. She spotted the daffodils which came early this year — by five days as compared to last year and 15 days compared to 2007′s first bloom.

If all goes well, our tree peony will leaf out tomorrow or the next day.

In addition to each season’s blooms, I have diagrams of the placement of tick tubes around my property. Primitive as my drawings may be, they are critical to the health and safety of my family each year.

Since 2002, Connecticut has had the highest reported rate of Lyme disease in the country!

My vigilance came after my middle daughter, Marlee, contracted Lyme disease at just 3 years old. Her knee swelled so much she couldn’t walk. Thankfully, seven years on and after medical intervention, she shows no signs of the disease.

My youngest daughter, Ava, will take her first steps this summer and I look forward to seeing her play outside, but not before all preventative measures are taken.

And on the subject of walking, those of you who know me have likely seen my dog Nellie taking her sweet time crossing Young’s Field during softball season. Yes, she’s a stubborn old bulldog, but she has also lived with and suffered from Lyme disease for most of her adult life.

The tiny deer tick is responsible for transmitting Lyme disease to humans and pets.

Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in the United States.

Deer ticks are much smaller than dog ticks, often no bigger than the head of a pin, and are much more difficult to detect. Sadly, children aged 5 to 9 have the highest rates of Lyme disease.

One of the best disease-prevention methods is reducing exposure, including reducing tick populations in the outside areas around your home where you spend time.

So that you may best enjoy your outdoor season, I’d like to share the following information:

  • Ticks are usually found from ground level to three feet above the ground.
  • Exercise caution in wooded areas and low-growing grassland.
  • Avoid short-cuts through heavily wooded areas; stay in the center of paths.
  • Ticks are susceptible to dehydration. Reduce humidity in your property by pruning trees, clearing brush, removing leaf litter, mowing grass regularly, and letting it dry thoroughly between watering.
  • Place jungle gym equipment away from shaded areas bordering the edge of property.
  • Educate children about high risk areas.
  • While not always practical, wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants; tuck your shirt into your pants and pants into your socks.
  • Use EPA-approved tick repellents.
  • Conduct frequent tick-checks. Be sure to check the scalp, behind and in the ears, and behind any joints.

For more information, please visit www.yardapes.org or www.lyme.org.

A resident of New Milford for 22 years, Shayne Newman founded YardApes in 1990, having worked in the trade since 1987. YardApes, Inc. is a full-service landscape design, construction and maintenance company located in New Milford. Mr. Newman is a Certified Landscape Professional, Certified Landscape Technician, holds a Connecticut Supervisory Pesticide License and is a Certified Landscape Designer.

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