Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Cautionary tale about greenhouse pests – Ticks and Lyme Disease

The doctor said that nobody gets Lyme Disease in December! I did and figured that I picked up the tick in my greenhouse! I wasn’t checking for it because it was, after all, December. But I had seen a mouse in the greenhouse a month or so before the incident. I figured it came in when the door was open and was looking for a winter hideaway.

When my blood test came back positive for Lyme Disease I knew I had to get rid of that mouse and any other mice that might decide that my greenhouse is a nice place for winter hibernation. Mice are an alternate host for the ticks that harbor Lyme disease. Deer are the main host, but you don’t often find a deer in your greenhouse! Hopefully.

What are mice elimination options? The first is to prevent them coming in. That is done by sealing any holes in the greenhouse floor, frame, doors or windows and by installing a screen door. Of course, you will have to make sure a screen door is closed immediately after you go in or out, even when bringing a can of water or bag of potting soil into the greenhouse.

Alan smith 2 June
Even in Winter, pests need to be eliminated.

The second is to eliminate the pests if they do get in. In the past I have used D-Con mouse proof containers but often the mice die in some inconvenient spot and then smell, so I prefer to try to drive them out. Another drastic measure is a simple spring type mousetrap. I had one in the greenhouse for almost a year and did not catch anything other than my finger. Ouch!

I also tried a humane trap and caught some mice. The question then becomes what to do with wild live mice.

Another way to keep small critters out is to use a high-frequency sound generator. They cost around $50 or more and work by emitting a high pitched sound that only animals can hear. Some have strobing lights as well. Does it work? I have no idea, I have never used one, but experts seem to say that they don’t work very well.

Some people say that mothballs, peppermint soaked cotton wool balls, human hair, ammonia, and cat urine will keep mice away. I tried peppermint oil and mothballs in the greenhouse and saw the mouse running around, so I don’t think they are very effective.

Because I do not like to spray pesticides in the greenhouse – after all, I want to eat most of the produce – I looked at organic options. One option is Tick Killz, an organic spray that contains 2-phenethylpropionate. It works by being sprayed on lawns, shrubs, stone walls and other potential tick havens outside the greenhouse to create a DMZ for small rodents.

Another is Damminix Tick Tubes with contain cotton wool balls soaked with non-organic permethrin. Tick Tubes also kill off a lot of other insects including mosquitos and whiteflies and work by allowing mice to take the soaked cotton wool back to their nests. The permethrin kills off the ticks. The mice and other animals are unharmed. You apply Tick Tubes at 24 tubes per half an acre to create a tick free zone in your yard.   For more information on Lyme Disease, check this latest article about research at Johns Hopkins – http://www.baltimorefishbowl.com/stories/johns-hopkins-launches-countrys-first-lyme-disease-research-center/