Top News

To spray or not: Pesticide available but doctor says don’t

Lunenburg County farmer Heather Squires says her flock of guinea fowl have kept her property tick-free. ANDREW RANKIN
Lunenburg County farmer Heather Squires says her flock of guinea fowl have kept her property tick-free. ANDREW RANKIN - The Chronicle Herald

hile the province’s tick population continues to balloon, the province’s chief medical officer of health is advising homeowners against using pesticides to protect their property from the diseasecarrying parasites.

Dr. Robert Strang’s recommendation comes in response to a North American pest control company launching a residential pesticide spraying program recently in Nova Scotia.

Orkin Canada’s treatment program uses two well-known tick control substances, Permethrin and deltamethrin. Both are regulated by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency.

In an email statement to The Chronicle Herald, Strang said residential pesticide use is ineffective in both controlling tick populations or decreasing the risk of tick bites. Strang also said the practice could also have negative environmental impacts.

Meanwhile, the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg intends to use permethrin in a Public 

Health Agency of Canada-led tick reduction program, due to start next week.

Dr. Robbin Lindsay, a research scientist with the agency, is the mastermind behind the project that will see 18 deer bait stations erected in Lunenburg communities, Blue Rocks and Garden Lots.

The feeding stations feature vertical rollers that guide the animal to the food, simultaneously applying permethrin to its head and neck areas. The province has committed to paying a portion of the $80,000 project, said Sarah Kucharski, spokeswoman for the municipality. Deer bait stations have been shown to reduce tick populations in other parts of North America.

Nova Scotia Public Health maintains homeowners shouldn’t apply pesticide on their lawn as protection against ticks. The department advises the best protection against tick bites are long pants, enclosed shoes, and insect repellants containing DEET or Icaridin to exposed skin and clothes, as well thorough tick checks after coming inside.

In Nova Scotia, all but Cape Breton Island and Guysborough County are deemed high risk areas for Lyme disease by the Department of Health and Wellness. In 2016, the number of reported cases of the disease in the province

rose to 326, up from 247 in 2015. That amounts to 34.4 per 100,000 population, 12.7 times the national average.

Vett Lloyd, a Mount Allison University biologist and tick expert, admits that there are health and environmental risks associated with pesticide use but she says the option shouldn’t be ruled out completely while tick-borne diseases are on the rise.

“There’s no perfect world out there because the ticks are here so you have to choose your risk,” said Lloyd. “Is it the risk of the ticks or the risk of the chemical? I would very much hope that the company is applying it properly as opposed to someone just buying a pesticide or smuggling one across the border and using it without knowing what they’re doing, which is what a lot of people are doing now.

“You cannot eliminate ticks from the environment. That’s just not going to be possible. They are here to stay. People can control the ticks on them, their kids and pets. This is a tool to control ticks around their house.”

Mary Beth Pfeiffer, author of Lyme: The First Epidemic of Climate Change, says the explosion of tick populations across North America and the diseases they carry, amount to a public health crisis. The U.S.-based investigative journalist says pesticides ought not to be ignored by homeowners.

“We should not entirely rule out the use of pesticides against a growing epidemic, especially since public warnings and other measures have not stemmed the growth and movement of ticks,” said Pfeiffer.

“I admire the wariness of Nova Scotian officials when it comes to pesticides. These chemicals should not be used lightly. But the gravity of the Lyme disease epidemic may call for the use of chemicals to control ticks, assuming they have been properly reviewed and are used correctly.”

Meanwhile, Lunenburg farmer Heather Squires has opted for a natural approach to combating ticks on her property.

She has 35 guinea fowls scouring the perimeter of her property daily, chowing down on every tick in sight.

“I’ve not seen one tick on my property this year,” she said.

Recent Stories