How to Make Tick Tubes
Note: Since this article was published, a careful reader alerted SVMC to professional pest-management guidance that advises against making tick tubes. Please review at https://blogs.cornell.edu/nysipm/2019/06/28/dont-make-your-own-tick-tubes/.
Would you believe that there is a simple and inexpensive way for you to reduce your exposure to ticks in your yard by as much as 10 fold? They are called tick tubes. While you can purchase them online at the rate of $3 each, you can make them with materials you likely already have on hand for much less. Here’s how to make them, and how they work.
- Cotton balls
- Toilet paper tubes
- Permethrin, like Repel brand Permethrin Clothing and Gear Insect Repellant, which is found in the outdoor section of department stores for about $15 for a 6.5-oz. can. It is an insecticide that is deadly to ticks but largely harmless to mammals.
- Wait for a nice day. Lay the newspapers out in a dry spot on the ground or table outside in a location shielded from the wind. Weight the papers with rocks, if necessary.
- Spread cotton balls out on the newspapers.
- Spray them generously with the permethrin until they are wet. (You can also soak the cotton balls in permethrin. They will take longer to dry using the second method.)
- Let them dry for a day or so before using gloved hands to turn them over. (While the permethrin is not harmful to humans, it is an insecticide, so handle according to the package instructions.)
- Spray the opposite side and let them dry.
- Use gloved hands to place the dry cotton in the toilet paper tubes.
- Discard the newspaper and gloves.
- Place the tubes at 50-foot intervals (about 20 normal adult steps) around your property. Target stone walls, wood piles, the foundation of your house, the bottoms of fences, and the bases of trees and shrubs.
Mice, a primary carrier of ticks, will take the cotton to make their nests more comfortable. The permethrin will get all over their fur, their nests, and their young. It will kill the ticks without harming the mice.
Once your tick tubes are placed, check back in a few weeks. The cotton should be gone. If it is, you can bet that the process worked as planned. You can pick up the empty tube and discard it or let it harmlessly biodegrade. Repeat in the spring and fall for the best effect.
See the Center’s for Disease Control and Prevention’s guide for other ways you can make your yard unfriendly for ticks.
Donna Barron, RN, is the infection prevenionist for Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, in Bennington.