On the Frontlines of War on Bugs


web Biz Heller_East End Tick & Mosquito-Brian Kelly 8-27-13_6332

By Emily J. Weitz

East End Tick and Mosquito has been serving the East End community for 16 years, and with each progressive year, business has gotten better. This is not good news for the community, of course, because it means the tick problem in particular has gotten much worse. But when Brian Kelly started the business on his own, ticks were already the talk of the town.

“I was working for a tree company,” he recalls, “as an applicator spraying for caterpillars. I was talking to local people and learning about the Lyme disease issue, and I started to understand the tick problem out here.”

He started researching products that might help, and started testing things out on his own.

“We used to use crushed chrysanthemum leaves,” he says, “and they worked pretty well. But they became extremely expensive and left a white powder on everyone’s shrubs and bushes.”

So they started to use a synthetic product that was oil-based, wouldn’t wash away, and left no residue. It’s called permethrin, and replicates the pyrethrin that is produced naturally in chrysanthemum flowers.

“When sprayed,” says Kelly, “our permethrin solution kills ticks and does not leach through the soil. We also offer natural organic spray alternatives, such as cedar oil and a mixture of rosemary and peppermint oil.”

In some cases, people are required to use organic alternatives on their properties, such as when they’re very close to wetlands. And many people would just prefer to use organic options when possible. Unfortunately, there are setbacks. Organic treatments are much more expensive and need to be applied more frequently, as they don’t stay on the plant for as long. Also, the organic solutions kill the ticks that are out that day, but they don’t have the lasting effect that permethrin has, according to Kelly.

“We do a ground spray application of the permethrin,” says Kelly, “where we spray the entire property from backwoods right to the street to kill all ticks on the property. We are not repelling them; we’re killing them.”

Permethrin lasts for about thirty days on the property, so as ticks come back, it continues to kill them.

“Ticks get carried back onto the property by rabbits, birds, squirrels, and deer,” says Kelly. “They keep falling off these animals and coming back, and permethrin continues to kill them.”

Then, after 30 days, East End Tick and Mosquito comes back and re-applies.

“For one reason or another,” says Kelly, “the ticks have gotten worse as time has gone on. I don’t know if it’s the deer or the weather pattern. Maybe since it’s more populated, the deer are venturing towards where people are. But all I know is the ticks are definitely getting worse.”

This year, which Kelly says is the worst he’s seen, has presented the Lone Star tick as a huge issue.

“It’s shown up over the last 10 years,” Kelly says. “They started showing up in Montauk and have worked their way west, and now they seem to be everywhere. In the past, you wouldn’t have gotten a tick by walking through town and rubbing against the bushes, but this year you do.”

Kelly offers some tips for homeowners in keeping the tick problem at bay. Reducing leaf litter, brush and leaves at the lawn and around the house and keeping grass short are good ways to limit areas that harbor ticks. He also suggests creating a buffer with wood chips between any plants and gardens and places where people hang out, like patios and decks. Also, keeping the property bright and sunny by trimming tree branches will keep the area drier and less appealing to ticks.

Sometimes Kelly feels like he’s fighting an uphill battle, but he remains persistent. That’s how he runs his business and how he addresses the ticks.

“We’re driven by the philosophy that prevention is better than a cure,” says Kelly, “and we’re committed to protecting residents’ wellbeing while keeping the East End clean and pristine.”