Keep Your Property Clean
Remove leaf litter and brush as far away from your house as possible. Prune low-lying bushes to let in more sunlight. If you life in the woods, consider cutting down some of the smaller trees, and rake up and leaves in areas you or children may frequent. This should be done every fall because ticks prefer to over-winter under leaf-litter.
Deer (and hence ticks) are attracted to a variety of plants, bushes, etc. planted near houses. Check with your local tree nursery to determine what plantings will not attract deer.
Woodpiles are a favorite harborage for mice and other small mammals which carry infected ticks. Try to keep your woodpile neat, off the ground, and in a sunny area or under cover where it remains dry.
Gardens (especially perennial) should be cleaned up every fall. Foliage left on the ground over the winter months only provides shelter for a small mammals that may act as hosts for immature ticks.
Stone walls on your property should be avoided because they attract small mammals and increase the potential for ticks, especially in certain areas of the northeast. Though they may be beautiful to look at, stone walls should not be used as a "picnic table" during the late spring or summer months.
Lawns, especially shaded ones, may support tick populations in highly endemic areas. Keep lawns mowed on a regular basis and trim the edges. Fields may be mowed to keep them short, of if "planted in flowers", mow several paths through them so you may enjoy the wildflowers close-up without brushing against potential tick habitat. Mow the entire field in the fall and preferably with a rotary mower to avoid thatch build-up where mice and ticks may over-winter.
Birdfeeders provide lots of winter entertainment by attracting birds (and mice), but these can carry infected ticks. Though feeders must be placed near cover to provide an escape route for birds, one should make sure that the ground beneath the feeder is bare, and that the feeder is not placed too close to one's house. Clean up the ground around a bird feeder at regular intervals to limit the amount of spoilage and available rodent food. If you live in a Lyme disease endemic area, suspend bird feeding activities during late spring and summer, when infected ticks are most active.
The construction of 8 foot high fences to keep out deer may significantly reduce the abundance of ticks (and hence the risk of being bitten) on relatively large land parcels. However, smaller mammals and birds still enter, and hence fences cannot totally control the tick population.
The use of insecticides is without doubt the best way to control ticks and reduce Lyme disease risk in the residential environment. Pesticides to consider using include carbaryl (Sevin) and cyfluthrin (Tempo), the latter being available only from specialists in pest control. Only one or two applications a year -- in late May (to control nymps) and September (to control adults) will significantly reduce the tick population on your property. One should follow the label instructions for use against ticks. Do not use any insecticide near streams or any bodies of water as it may kill aquatic life or pollute the water itself.
The hiring of a professionally trained applicator should be seriously considerd because most homeowners are not trained in pesticide application. Most tree companies in the northeast can spray for ticks. Furthermore, their superior equipment will probably insure a more thorough treatment. Some homeowners are reluctant to use insecticides because of a fear of harmful effects on their pets, children and the environment. The insecticides mentioned above are widely used and do not remain in the environment for a an appreciable long time. They have been approved for use by federal and state officials. As is the case with all insecticides, the homeowner must make an informed judgment based on risk of pesticide use versus the benefits of avoiding Lyme disease.