How to Leave Those Ticks in the Woods

Velcro gaiters by No Fly Zone brand of

It’s a sunny 40 degrees outdoors. You decide to take a walk in the woods. It’s winter. Does that guarantee a tick-free walk?

Not quite.

Some types of ticks remain active from fall to spring when temperatures are above freezing, according to tick expert Dr. Goudarz Molaei, a medical entomologist and director of the Passive Tick Surveillance and Testing Program at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES).

“For instance, adult black-legged ticks remain active from fall to spring as long as the temperature is above freezing,” Molaei says about the species that carries Lyme pathogens and several other tick-borne diseases, though he notes “Extremely cold temperatures can slow tick activity and reduce their survival rate.”

Most woodland walkers know the protective effects of tucking pants hems into their socks, which blocks easy access to legs and keeps ticks visible on clothing, especially if it is light-colored. It’s a great wintertime strategy, though uncomfortable in warmer times. (In some corners, it also fails the fashion test.)

Perhaps now is the time to discover another option: insect-repellent clothing for yourself and your family. If properly used, it is about 90 percent effective. 

Permethrin-treated clothing uses little of the repellent chemical—only one-half of one percent concentration. It isn’t sprayed directly on the skin. Mammals don’t absorb permethrin from fabric. (There is one unfortunate exception: cats, which should not be exposed.) The permethrin-treated clothing and gear are even EPA-approved for nursing mothers and children. (In the photo above: Velcro gaiters by the No Fly Zone brand.)

Permethrin, like other repellents, is effective at lower temperatures, Molaei at CAES says.

If repellent clothing sounds like a winner, there are three ways to add some to your wardrobe: Do-it-yourself, or buy pre-treated clothing, or have your own gear and clothing treated by a major manufacturer of tick-repellent clothing. 

Learn more by seeing the complete artcle at Zip06/TheDay

Podcast lovers: Hear tick expert Dr. Thomas Mather, director of the University of Rhode Island’s TickEncounter Resource Center, introduce free tools you can use to educate yourself about the different types of ticks. Learn what the respective risks are in your neighborhood, and get tips on how to minimize your exposure. Also: In the second half of this 30-minute podcast, I discuss how I try to make my own landscapes less tick friendly without banishing other wildlife. Stream the podcast or download "Growing Greener"  by Thomas Christopher on Apple PodcastsSpotify, or Amazon.

Thanks to for the photos.