Outdoors

Pest expert says leaf piles safe for kids, pets; ticks unlikely

Max Gatchell plays in the leaves that he raked together at his home in Brewer on Sunday as his father Jason continues where Max left off.
Max Gatchell plays in the leaves that he raked together at his home in Brewer on Sunday as his father Jason continues where Max left off. Buy Photo
Max Gatchell plays in the leaves that he raked together at his home in Brewer on Sunday.
Kevin Bennett
Max Gatchell plays in the leaves that he raked together at his home in Brewer on Sunday. Buy Photo
Bella Gatchell rakes leaves at her home in Brewer on Sunday.
Bella Gatchell rakes leaves at her home in Brewer on Sunday. Buy Photo
Max Gatchell rakes leaves at his home in Brewer on Sunday as his father Jason cleans up with a leaf blower.
Max Gatchell rakes leaves at his home in Brewer on Sunday as his father Jason cleans up with a leaf blower. Buy Photo
Posted Oct. 23, 2013, at 7:45 a.m.
Last modified Oct. 25, 2013, at 8:25 a.m.

As October nears an end and the fall foliage has passed its peak, many will find themselves returning to the yearly ritual of picking up those trusty rakes and gathering fallen leaves into piles.

These leaf piles are magnets for children, animals and the young at heart. They are an open invitation to jump in, frolic and eventually destroy. But what lies below these leaf piles? Ticks? Rustic moth caterpillars? Wasps?

There is actually nothing to be worried about. No pests search out these leaf piles. Rustic moth caterpillars are hibernating, wasps and other bees are gone with the lower temperatures. The only concern may be ticks; however they do not even create a true threat.

“There is nothing to really be concerned about if you rake up your front lawn,” said Jim Dill, pest management specialist at the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension. “Nothing is attracting ticks to the leaf piles”

Dill said the most common place to find ticks, specifically deer ticks that may carry Lyme disease, is at the interface where your yard meets the woods.

“If you rake a bunch of leaves up from that interface … there is a possibility that there is a tick but only if there are ticks there to begin with,” said Dill.

If you have noticed throughout the summer that you have had a lot of ticks in your yard, you may have a higher possibility of gathering ticks up into your leaf pile, but it is an only accidental gathering.

If you are concerned about ticks, rake leaves in temperatures below 40 degrees. Dill said ticks hibernate in temperatures below 40 degrees, so your leaf piles may already be tick-free. If you’re still leery, simply stay away from the interface between your yard and the woods.

So let your children, animals and young at heart take that invitation and continue with the yearly ritual of playing in the leaf piles.

“I certainly would not be concerned. If I had kids that age now I wouldn’t be concerned about them jumping in the leaf piles anymore for any other reason … nothing is searching out those leaf piles,” said Dill.

 

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