Tick Talk

Had a question the other day about ticks, not only on the course but in the home lawn.  I decided to contact Dr. David Shetlar ” Bug Doc” from The Ohio State University and ask his expertise.  Here is what he had to say…

Hi Dave,

Had a golfer ask about ticks on the course.   I spray 1-2 times a year on tees, greens, fairways for cutworms and BTA adults with Bifenthrin.  We have about 150 acres of ‘Natural Tall Grass’ along with flood plain acreage, streams, and wooded areas.  My first suggestion is to keep the ball in the short grass where we spray.

Have any suggestions of how to answer this one for my GM & golfers on the web site?

Or when is the best time and what should I spray the rough and ‘Natural’.  I think that would be cost prohibitive but at least it would be an answer.

I don’t seem to notice ticks this early but apparently this golfer found one today.


Ticks are not going to be on any short-cut turf (cut roughs, fairways, greens and tees)!  They will only be in the tall grasses and among the taller plants along any tree row!

You might also want to post some “tick facts” in the locker room and/or cart pickup locations.  Bottom line, ticks pose no risk of disease until after they have been imbedded for more than 12 hours (some say 24 hours).  So, if a player has gotten into the areas where ticks are located, he/she should inspect their body within 12 hours of playing to ensure that no ticks are imbedded on them.  If so, they can simply remove them and flush down the toilet or place in a plastic bag in the freezer if they are afraid that some disease has been transmitted.  Lyme disease appears in 10 to 30 days after a bite as a red area at the bite site.  Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever appears as flu-like symptoms with a red rash.  In either case, taking the tick to the doctor will allow the doctor’s analytical lab to determine which disease is being manifested.  Humans often don’t set up antibodies that allow for correct diagnosis until several months after the bite or display of symptoms.

The bifenthrin (or any other pyrethroid, or Dursban) spray is pretty good at knocking down exposed ticks, but you will have to let the players know that you can’t go into the woods (where blacklegged ticks are located), spray around water habitats, or other wildlife sanctuary areas as these same pesticides pose a risk to the animals that are being encouraged!

The other question is, does one player finding a tick mean you have a problem on the course?  I would say not!  This same person wouldn’t complain if he/she walked in a metropark and ended up with a tick or several ticks.  It would be considered one of the hazards of being in such a place.  I would consider that your course is like a park – stay on the path and you will have little trouble with ticks, but get off the path and you are likely to encounter some of the “wildlife!”


To Clarify:

I can’t spray around the ponds, streams, or storm water retention basins and of course in the trees.  What I have been using is pretty good but we never eradicate but just reduce the populations of bugs, fungus, or weeds so they have less affect on the turf or golfers.  These products have little or no residual effect which means that after a day or so they are ineffective.  If I can find where a high population of invading marauders are located I would have a higher probability of decreasing their populations.

What I can do is called banding which means I run a strip of product around the tall grass and cut rough.  This 50 foot band won’t get everything but it could reduce some of the population.  It is a hit or miss kind of application because if the insects are close to the water or closer to home owners properties where I can’t spray we are out of luck.

In reality, you are outside walking in nature.  Take precautions by wearing light colored clothing and use a pyrethroid spray to treat your clothes or even a product with DEET will offer you some protection.

Or better yet,  hit the ball in the short grass where the insects won’t be and your golf score may also come down!

Other resources:

Ticks Now Carry A Virus More Deadly Than Lyme Disease

Ohio’s outdoors folks reporting an explosion of ticks in Buckeye woods and fields this spring.

How to remove a tick and products that can help you do it.

Top Ten Things You should Know About Ticks

Ticks in Ohio

Tick Encounter

Lyme Disease Prevention (Deep Woods OFF)



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