It’s been a bad year for ticks, and that means a busy year for the businesses that control the tiny, often disease-carrying arachnids.
“Every year you see stories about how there are more ticks and I’m not sure I’d ever experienced it. But this year there’s no question there are more ticks,” said Don Fossi, who co-founded Deer & Tick Guard in Brookfield in 2002. “The tick population in Connecticut has grown to a certain extent over the years. This is the worst year we’ve experienced, though.”
D.J. Reich, general manager of Mosquito Squad in Norwalk, added: “It’s definitely one of the worst years we’ve seen in at least the last 10. The majority of calls we get now are about tick control. The mild winter didn’t kill the ticks or the ticks’ hosts.”
Connecticut is home to a variety of ticks, including the deer tick, which is the one that can cause Lyme disease. Ticks attach themselves to animals and live off their hosts’ blood. Contrary to its name, the deer tick lives of a variety of hosts, not just deer.
“The white-footed mouse is the main host, but it can be any animal: chipmunk, squirrel, deer,” Reich said.
And humans, of course.
John Wolf of On Target Tick Control in New Fairfield said there are steps people can take to make their yards safer for children, pets and adults. Ticks favor cool, damp places, such as the woods, tall grasses, leaf litter and brush piles. Those are the places targeted by tick-control companies.
“Lawns are too hot and dry for ticks,” Wolf said. “We spray the perimeter of the lawn and any other problem areas. We do that four times a year starting in March or April. We’re a lot busier now because people are more on guard about it.”
Wolf said people often place outdoor features, such as playgrounds or fire pits, at the edges of yards where ticks like to hang out. Moving the features into the cut area of the yard, in addition to having the perimeter sprayed, will greatly reduce the risk of coming in contact with a tick.
“Mulch around the border and don’t allow kids to run in and out of the woods to get their toys,” Wolf said. “As people become more aware they learn there are things they can do to protect themselves. And as we, as tick control specialists, learn more we can do a better job of helping to prevent Lyme disease.”
An organic tick control spray, made from cedar oil, is now available for customers who prefer to not use a traditional synthetic insecticide around their yards. Fossi said he receives positive feedback from both his organic and nonorganic tick control products.
“The most important thing is to be mindful of the customer’s comfort level,” Fossi said. “Both products work well and we offer a guarantee with both.”
As the tick population and awareness of the potential dangers of tick bites increases, so has the demand for keeping lawns free from ticks. National franchises that previously focused on other outdoor pests have jumped into the tick arena and new franchises focused strictly on ticks are becoming increasingly popular.
The way Wolf sees it, there is enough demand to keep the businesses going.
“Sure, there are a lot of competitors because it’s such a big deal in our state,” he said. “There are plenty of customers out there, too, so as long as everyone is doing it right and protecting the families, that’s the important thing.”
Boehringer Ingelheim’s Animal Health division, which acquired Merial earlier this year, is a leader in the prevention of tick-borne diseases for the pet industry. It makes vaccines for pets as well as protective products under the Frontline brand. Dogs and cats can get Lyme disease and develop symptoms similar to what a human experiences, such as bulls-eye rash, flu-like symptoms and achy joints.
Zach Mills, head of U.S. pet veterinary professional services at BI Animal Health, said prevention of tick-borne diseases is far more desirable than treatment. He suggested starting vaccines early in a pet’s life.
“If someone has questions, the best thing to do is talk to their veterinarian about it,” Mills said. “They will be the experts in the local area.”
There is not currently a Lyme disease vaccine for humans on the market. GlaxoSmithKline made one in the late 1990s, marketed as LYMErix, but it was pulled off the shelves after a few years because of its adverse effects.
Mills said the pet vaccine for Lyme disease is safer and more effective. Developing a vaccine for humans is proving to be difficult because of the disease’s complexity.
“It’s one of those diseases that doesn’t always follow the textbook,” he said.
Bad summer ahead
Dr. Steven Heffer, a physician and medical director of AFC Urgent Care Centers in Bridgeport, Fairfield and Shelton, said he has seen a typical number of tick bite and Lyme disease cases so far this year, but he expects it to be a busy summer. Not only are there more ticks this year, he said, but a higher percentage of deer ticks being tested for Lyme disease are coming back positive.
“I think we’ll see a robust number of tick-related visits this summer, in August and into September,” Heffer said. “Once school is out and people start getting into the woods, there will be a lot more tick bites. We’re braced for a busy summer.”
Originally published on NewsTimes at: http://www.newstimes.com/business/article/Taking-out-ticks-is-big-business-11176353.php?cmpid=email-desktop