As winters on the East End of Long Island get gradually — and not-so-gradually — warmer, the tick population, which was once controlled by consistent low temperatures, has extended its active season. Ticks, which hibernate at temperatures below 35, have renewed their bloodlust in recent years, encouraging many homeowners to seek winter treatment for a problem that used to be seasonal.
For Brian Kelly, owner of the 24-year-old East End Tick and Mosquito Control, the problem of winter ticks has also presented an opportunity.
This year, Mr. Kelly has introduced a granular winter tick treatment, as a response to requests from local homeowners. “We’re really excited about it,” he said. “It’s a new approach to tick control. Most tick control companies, this time of year, end service for their clients. But we’ve realized, over the last few years, [that] winters have been warmer. Clients have been calling and asking for December treatments, for January treatments. We tried to figure out a way to accommodate our clients.”
As a result, East End Tick and Mosquito Control has developed a product that can be applied on a property’s perimeter, where ticks hibernate during the colder months. The product comes out of a spreader, in tiny pellets that are slow-dissolving granules—as opposed to the spray commonly used on lawns. The treatment is delivered to leaf litter and mulch, where ticks live and emerge from on days that are above 35 degrees. “We’ve been working on this for a few years, and we’ve been testing it,” Mr. Kelly said. Those tests now complete, the winter tick solution is available for residents throughout the East End.
Last year, Mr. Kelly said, nearly every winter day was 35 degrees or higher. That means that ticks remained active throughout nearly the entire season. “Whenever the temperature is above 35 degrees,” he said, “the ticks that haven’t gotten a blood meal to survive the winter come out. Ticks are always active when the temperatures are above freezing.”
Because of the nature of the new treatment — slow decomposing granules that release pesticides over a long period of time — it is well suited for the season, remaining in the leaves and mulch for ticks to consume when they come up for a meal. “They will slowly break down, and, as they break down, they will leave a residue of pesticide on those leaves. It lasts a lot longer than a spray. [It has] much better residual,” Mr. Kelly said. The treatment lasts about 45 days. “One application in December will get you through January, no problem,” he added.
As far as children and pets are concerned, Mr. Kelly emphasized that the product is being applied in areas that are removed from daily traffic. “Another reason we’re spreading this product on the perimeter of the property is that kids aren’t playing in the woods,” he said. “Pets and kids can go right back outside after it’s done. Dogs would really have to eat a whole bag of this to be hurt by it.”
Ultimately, the granular winter treatment is, in Mr. Kelly’s view, part of a broad program designed to address tick issues in all months of the year. And although this granular treatment is not appropriate for lawns, it can help to control the nascent population before summer even begins. He suggests using it in addition to — and not in lieu of — a regular, warm weather season spray program.
The lesson inherent, of course, is that the ticks are not gone just because the weather has changed. Should this winter, and subsequent winters, look like last year, in which below freezing temperatures were an outlier rather than a norm, residents can expect more cold weather tick encounters.
As a result, Mr. Kelly expects year-round tick control measures to be a new standard for East End homeowners. “We’re considered the leaders in the industry out here,” he said of his business. “You’ll probably see other companies following [in] our footsteps with this granular control. People think summer is over, but tick season is not.”