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Tick Tubes: Ultimate Guide + DIY

Researching tick tubes because you’re concerned with ticks around your home? Maybe you’ve already had to pull a tick off your dog this year, or even yourself?

I’ve been in residential pest control for over 10 years, and I’m here to tell you everything you need to know about tick tubes. When used correctly, tick tubes can have a major impact on your local tick population.

tick tube bush

Here’s everything you need to know about tick tubes – an essential tool for getting rid of ticks in your yard.

The Tick Epidemic

Nobody likes ticks. These bloodsucking pests are a major vector of disease in North America and throughout the world. Every year 476,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease. That’s just one of the diseases these parasites can spread.

As the climate warms, tick populations are growing and spreading. In the US, the incidence of Lyme disease has doubled since 1991. There’s no question that ticks and the diseases they spread need to be taken very seriously.

One increasingly popular and effective way to deal with ticks is through the use of tick tubes. Tick tubes are designed to attract rodents such as mice, squirrels, and chipmunks that ticks use as a host.

The small tubes are just the right size for rodents to enter and they seek out soft material such as cotton balls or dryer lint to use as bedding for their nests.

What the rodents don’t know is that the cotton is treated with a pesticide (usually permethrin) which kills the ticks that latch onto these animals.

How Do Tick Tubes Work?

Tick tubes work by killing the ticks early in their lifecycle while they’re feeding on small rodents such as mice before they encounter humans. By killing ticks that are still in the stage of feeding on rodents, tick tubes ensure the ticks will never grow old enough to reproduce, thereby greatly reducing the population.

To understand how tick tubes help to control ticks, we need to understand a little bit about the biology of these unpleasant creatures.

Ticks go through four stages in their life.

Starting off as an egg, they hatch into a six-legged larva. This stage is followed by a nymph stage, when the tick has eight legs. The final stage is that of adulthood. To move from one stage to another, the tick needs to feed on the blood of a mammal host, and different stages of the lifecycle require different hosts. This process can take three years.

tick life cycle

There are some ticks, such as the Brown Dog Tick, that prefer to stick with the same type of host their entire life, but many species change hosts as they grow.

Hatching from an egg, they will seek out small animals such as birds and rodents. This is where tick tubes come in.

Small mammals take the insecticide-covered bedding from inside of the tick tube back to their nest, and come into contact with it regularly. This kills ticks before they can mature to be large enough to feed on humans which means no tick bites and no disease spreading.

Why Do Tick Tubes Work?

Tick tubes work so well because they take advantage of the tick’s biology to control them at an early stage in the lifecycle before they become a threat to humans. They also take advantage of a well-documented pattern of rodent behavior.

When rodents such as mice have young, they raise them in a nest which they line with the softest materials they can find to provide a safe place for their offspring. Materials such as cotton balls and dryer lint are perfect for this purpose, and mice will actively seek out and collect these materials.

Providing the mice with these materials in the form of tick tubes has been found to be very effective in getting the mice to take the material back to the nest. Then, the pesticide that the soft materials have been treated with will kill the juvenile ticks without harming the rodents.

A study undertaken on Fire Island in New York found a consistent 90 percent reduction in ticks infected with Lyme disease over several years thanks to the use of tick tubes. Other studies over the years have found similar results. It’s clear that tick tubes are a powerful weapon in reducing the incidence of Lyme disease.

Do Tick Tubes Really Work?

Yes, tick tubes are shown to work with varying degrees of effectiveness. From the studies I reviewed, there is no doubt that tick tubes will kill ticks living on these small mammals if they take the bedding material back to their nest.

The one study that showed less than complete control of ticks in an area said it was due to chipmunks not using the bedding in their case. They still saw a reduction in the tick population, though.

Why are Tick Tubes Becoming So Popular?

Tick tubes are becoming more widely used in the battle against tick-borne diseases. There are several reasons for this, not all of them good.

One of the main reasons is the explosion of Lyme disease and other tickborne diseases. As these diseases become more prevalent and ticks spread from their original territories into new areas, people will look for new methods to control them. Tick tubes are one of the best.

Also, tick tubes are becoming more readily available. As they start to show up in big-box stores and other retailers, they become more available for people to use (keep reading for our recommendations).

Another factor in their popularity is the ease of use. You don’t need any specialist knowledge or mixing of chemicals in a sprayer to use a tick tube. In most jurisdictions, you can pick them up at retail stores and simply follow the directions on the package to achieve effective tick control.

Many people find this to be a preferable alternative to using a tick spray for their yard.

Finally, tick tubes are a good example of Integrated Pest Management, a policy that has changed the way pest issues are addressed over the past few decades. Tick tubes allow users to target ticks at a specific point in their lifecycle without risking harm to other animals. This is an environmentally friendly way to deal with a very serious problem.

Best Tick Tubes to Purchase

When it comes to buying tick tubes, there are currently just 2 major players currently.

Thermacell is a well-established brand in the pest-control industry. Perhaps best known for their effective mosquito repellent devices, Thermacell is also a leading manufacturer of tick tubes (check out our Thermacell Tick Tube review). Their products can be found in garden and hardware stores throughout the country, wherever tick tubes are licensed to be used.

Sale
Thermacell Tick Control Tubes for Yards; 6 Tubes; Protects 1/4 Acre from...
  • TESTED FOR PROTECTION: Thermacell Tick Control Tubes are a no-spray, no-mess, easy way to kill deer ticks and prevent...
  • KEEP TICKS AWAY: 6 tubes provide advanced tick protection for up to 1/4 acre per application. Apply 2X per year for best...
  • EASY TO USE: Place tubes around areas that attract mice, such as rock walls, wood piles, brush, sheds, gardens, and...

Thermacell tick tubes are sold in packs of 6 or 24 and should be applied twice per year (once in the spring, once in late summer). How many you need is going to depend on the size of your property. Here’s a handy chart –

Their main competitor is Damminix. Damminix has been around longer but their products can be much harder to find and are often out of stock online.

These two companies use the same exact pesticides and are used the same way, so I don’t have a preference between the two. Just whichever you can get your hands on!

Damminix 27213 Tick Tube, 6-Pack
  • Permethrin, a synthetic pyrethroid is based on a natural compound extracted from chrysanthemum
  • Tick tubes deliver tick-controlling permethrin
  • You can place biodegradable damminix tick tubes around your property in the spring and fall

What Brand of Tick Tubes Works Best?

When it comes to pesticide products, the brand you use rarely matters as much as the ingredients. Both Damminix and Thermacell use permethrin in their tick tubes, which is a potent insecticide that has been proven to be effective against ticks.

The concentration of permethrin is also identical, so neither is stronger or weaker than the other.

If you can find both brands available for sale, you may prefer one to another. Realistically, both use the same chemical in the same way, and both brands are as easy to use as the other. Often, your purchase decision will come down to a matter of price or availability. The best tick tubes to use are the ones you can get right now.

How to Make My Own Tick Tubes (DIY)

It’s possible to make your own tick tubes with some common household materials along with some permethrin, but it won’t be as clean and easy as buying them. You can save a chunk of change, though!

Ultimately, a tick tube is nothing more than a small tube that’s big enough for a mouse or a rodent to get inside, packed with soft material that has been treated with permethrin.

Toilet roll or kitchen roll tubes stuffed with cotton balls, dryer lint, or some other soft material can serve the same purpose. Make sure not to pack them too tight – mice need to be able to freely remove them.

Three to five cotton balls to a toilet paper tube is a good ratio, leaving them loose enough for the mice to remove them and take them to the nest.

Before packing the tubes with the soft material, you’ll need to treat them with permethrin. To try to match the mixture used in commercially sold tick tubes, I recommend using a 10% permethrin concentrate diluted to a ratio of ~2/3 ounce in 1 gallon of water.

Martins Permethrin 10%
Active Ingredient: Permethrin 10%

Martins Permethrin 10% controls horn flies, face flies, lice and ticks, with a residual activity lasting up to 28 days. It’s been studied for decades and is approved for use on livestock and even dogs. Keep it away from cats though – it’s toxic!

Why DoMyOwn?DoMyOwn.com offers professional-grade insecticides to DIYers while ensuring proper storage of chemicals. Couple that with their impressive customer service and knowledgeable staff, it’s the #1 choice.

Using a more potent mix isn’t necessary to kill ticks and can increase the potential harm of the chemical both for yourself and the environment.

Once you have your permethrin concentrate, you’ll need to dilute it with the water as described above. Then soak the cotton balls in this mixture, making sure to wear gloves to protect yourself.

Consider spraying your cotton balls inside of a cardboard box or something else that can catch the run-off and be disposed of. Then stuff the cotton balls or dryer lint into your tubes.

If you can’t get your hands on concentrated permethrin, you may be able to use a substitute. This aerosol permethrin spray could work to saturate the cotton balls, it would just be much more expensive on a per-ounce basis.

Repel Permethrin Clothing and Gear Insect Repellent Aerosol
Active Ingredient: Permethrin – 0.5%

This insect repellent works by binding with the fabric that is treated and kills insects upon contact without leaving any residue and scent. One treatment can last up to 2 weeks of protection by just spraying the item to be used and let dry. The product is not to be used on human’s skin.

Why DoMyOwn?DoMyOwn.com offers professional-grade insecticides to DIYers while ensuring proper storage of chemicals. Couple that with their impressive customer service and knowledgeable staff, it’s the #1 choice.

Is Making My Own Tick Tubes Safe?

Permethrin is safe to use when handeled properly.

  • Mix and apply chemicals outside of the home in the open air for ventilation.
  • Use personal protective equipment. Gloves, long sleeves and pants, eye protection, and an appropriately labeled pesticide respirator will protect you from the ill effects the chemical can cause.
  • Permethrin is extremely harmful to aquatic life. Make sure no chemical runs off into streams or other watercourses.
  • Only mix as much chemical as you need to use. If you find yourself with leftover formula after the treatment, inquire about the disposal of hazardous waste in your jurisdiction. Never pour any permethrin mixture down the drain!

Legal Considerations

Note that concentrated permethrin is intended for commercial use by licensed applicators. The rules that govern the use of pesticides vary between different states. However, it’s important to know that it is technically illegal to use any pesticide for any purpose which is not listed on its label.

Since no brand of permethrin is labeled for use in DIY tick tubes, using permethrin in this way isn’t exactly approved. Therefore, if you want to stay on the right side of the law, the safest thing to do is to buy commercial tick tubes, which are perfectly legal for use.

How to Use Tick Tubes

Ticks are active seasonally, and so you should perform treatment seasonally. Set tick tubes out once in the spring when the ticks first become active (April – May), and again in the late summer (late July – early August).

Place tubes in covered areas such as flowerbeds, along walls, near woodpiles, under bushes, and under sheds. These are areas where mice like to forage and will be more likely to find the tubes. Place the tubes every 10 yards or so.

Place tick tubes more densely in areas where ticks are likely to be, such as wooded areas. Also keep the tubes in areas that stay pretty dry, not areas that pool with water. Mice prefer dry materials for their nest.

If using DIY materials, note that your paper towel rolls aren’t going to be water-resistant like the Thermacell tick tubes, so you may need to replace them after a heavy rainstorm.

Check the tubes every few days to see if the mice took the nesting. If you’re finding that the nesting material is still in the tube, try moving it elsewhere on the property.

How Many Tick Tubes Do I Need For My Yard?

It depends on the size of your property. For a 1/4 acre property, you’ll need 6 tubes per treatment (12 for the year since you’ll want to do 2 treatments). A 1/2 acre property will need 12 tubes per treatment, and a full acre will need 24 tubes per treatment.

That’s really all there is to it! The mice do the work from there.

Tick Tube Safety

When using any pesticide, safety comes first. If using commercially available tick tubes, make sure you follow the instructions on the packaging very closely. If using your own tubes, be careful to keep the tubes away from pets and other non-target animals.

Are tick tubes safe for dogs?

Tick tubes are generally safe for dogs. Make sure your dog doesn’t eat the contents of the tubes, and you will be fine. Even if they did, the concentration of the pesticide within is pretty mild so I wouldn’t expect lethal consequences, but it would still be a good idea to call the vet in this instance.

Are tick tubes safe for cats?

Permethrin has been shown to be particularly toxic to cats, so tick tubes are not safe for cats. Especially if you have an outdoor cat and if the cat actively hunts mice that may have come into contact with the permethrin.

Are tick tubes safe for bees?

Permethrin is highly toxic to bees so it’s possible some bees get harmed in this process.
Bumblebees often nest underground, including in mouse burrows. If you have a lot of bumblebees in your yard, it may be better to avoid using permethrin to avoid causing them serious harm.

Are tick tubes safe for kids?

Tick tubes are designed to be safe for humans and shouldn’t be a problem if you have kids around. If children do come into contact with tick tubes in your yard, just make sure they wash their hands immediately afterward. Otherwise, there shouldn’t be an issue.
Remember that the pesticide is formulated to kill tiny insects and even a child is exponentially larger and shouldn’t be harmed by such a small amount.

Are tick tubes safe for mice?

Tick tubes are designed to be safe for mice and other small rodents. The concentration of permethrin used in a tick tube is not high enough to cause any problems, even for small mice. This makes them perfectly safe to use, yet still effective at killing ticks.

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Written by Wesley Wheeler

Wesley has over 10 years of residential and commercial pest control experience dealing with every kind of pest. He ran his own pest control company for 6 years and now shares his knowledge online.

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