How to Make Tick Tubes

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Homemade Tick Tubes

Battling ticks in your yard? Then, you may be surprised to learn that toilet paper rolls and dryer lint could be the key to getting rid of them.

Sound crazy? Allow me to explain.

When ticks first hatch, they’re too small to latch on to deer, humans and other large animals, so they usually latch onto mice. A single mouse may play host to 100 ticks! If you’re serious about eliminating the ticks on your property, it’s smart to go after them at this phase, and that means finding a way to kill the ticks while they’re still on the mice. An easy way to do that is with tick tubes.

What are Tick Tubes?

They’re really nothing more than cardboard tubes that have been stuffed with permethrin-coated cotton. Permethrin is a natural pesticide made from chrysanthemums, and it’s highly effective against ticks. By placing it on a wad of cotton, the hope is that mice will find the cotton, and carry it back to their nests to use as bedding material, thereby killing any ticks that they’re hosting. It’s a simple, but effective way to dial back the tick population in your yard.

Several companies sell tick tubes; but it’ll cost you about $200 a year to treat a half-acre. So, I recommend making them yourself. One $20 bottle of the active ingredient is enough to keep you in tick tubes for years.

Here’s a video and step-by-step instructions to show you how they’re made.

Tick Tube Supplies

Tick Tube Instructions:

What You’ll Need:

Empty toilet paper rolls
Dryer lint (or cotton balls)
A mask
A cardboard box
Permethrin insect repellent. You can buy it in diluted form or as a concentrate. Look for it on the camping/hunting aisle.
A spray bottle (if the permethrin didn’t come with one)

Tip: For the biggest savings, go with permethrin concentrate. You’ll have to dilute it, and put it in your own spray bottle, but you’ll get a lot more for your money.

What You Do:

Spray Dryer Lint with Permethrin

Working outdoors, while wearing gloves and a mask, place your dryer lint in a box, and spray it liberally with diluted permethrin (refer to the bottle for the proper dilution rate).

Spraying Dryer Lint with Pesticide

Allow the lint to dry. Then, flip it over, and spray the other side.

Tubes Stuffed with Treated Lint

Once both sides are dry, stuff the lint into your empty toilet paper rolls, and your tick tubes are ready to use.

Tick Tube Placed in the Woods

Where Should I Use My Tick Tubes?

Place your tick tubes around the perimeter of your yard, and in areas where you spend a lot of time. Be sure to include areas that look like prime mouse habitat – near rocks and wood piles, in overgrown and wooded areas, around buildings, etc. This will help mice to find your tubes faster.

Some people recommend placing tubes every 10 feet; others recommend placing tubes every 10 yards. Experiment and see what works best for you. When you make your own tick tubes, you can afford to use them liberally.

How Long Do Tick Tubes Last?

Permethrin isn’t water soluble, so it won’t wash off in the rain, and the bottle says a single application lasts 42 days. To maintain efficacy, I recommend replacing your tick tubes twice a year, once in the spring when the nymphs emerge and once in the late summer when the larvae hatch. April and July are common application times, but you may need to adjust the times a bit to match the weather patterns in your area. Here in Tennessee, I typically put my first batch out in March.

How Many Tick Tubes Do I Need?

Commercial manufacturers sell a pack of 24 tick tubes to treat a half acre area. Presumably, this is based on treating the perimeter of the property only. If you have a bunch of outbuildings and trails that you want to treat, you’ll probably need to increase this number accordingly.

How Can I Tell If They’re Working?

Obviously a lack of ticks is the best indication that they’re working, but if you’re curious to see if the mice have taken the bait before you reach that point, just take a peek at your tubes. If the lint is missing or disturbed, you can be confident that a mouse is responsible.

Are Tick Tubes Harmful to Other Animals and Insects?

Permetrin is regarded as safe for humans, dogs and mice, but it’s not safe for cats, at least when it’s wet. According to the permethrin bottle that I bought, it’s okay for cats to be around it once it’s dry. You’ll have to decide if you’re comfortable with that.

Also, note that because permethrin is a broad spectrum insecticide, it’s important to take care in its application. Do not apply it in areas where it may affect bees and other pollinators, or around bodies of water. It’s harmful to fish and other aquatic organisms.

Where Can I Buy Tick Tubes?

If you’d rather not make them yourself, you can buy tick tubes on Amazon.

Battling Other Backyard Pests?

Check out these homemade pest control solutions.

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  1. We have already had a couple of ticks on our three little dogs, and this is 3/9/18. So- we really appreciate learning about tick/sticks. Also, we will be getting six barred rock chicks in about three weeks, and we don’t want ticks on them. We are considering getting two guineas to patrol about 3/4s of an acre hoping they will get some fleas and ticks.
    Because our neighbors have lots of cats plus we have squirrels, we get a lot of cat fleas here. Do you know how to control “cat (& dog) fleas?”
    We thank you for your excellent ideas.
    Best regards, Brad & Glenda

    1. Beneficial Nematodes will kill the tick and flea larvae. Lasts forever and stays in the soil. I reapply twice a year in Spring and late summer.Soil holds the nematodes while they wait for the larvae to show up for dinner.

    1. Not from what I’ve read. I actually found a study (done by National Geographic, if I remember correctly), where they determined that birds were intentionally snatching the lint sometimes to kill the mites in their nests.

  2. Brilliant! Ticks have been moving up north to Canada for some years now, and are becoming a concern even in cities. I’m assuming that permethrin isn’t toxic for pets either?

  3. what would happen if the mice bring it to their nest and the mice get wet could that hurt the cats if they catch the mice

  4. It my understanding that mice do not like the smell of dryer sheets. If you use dryer sheets then is the the lint from dryer for tick tubes ineffective because of the scent?

    1. Hi Mitzi,

      Permethrin isn’t an attractant, so the ticks won’t latch on to the lint. It works by killing the ticks that are on the mice. When I put out tubes last fall, I was surprised that I was only able to find one of the tubes that I had put out in the spring. So, it looks like most of them were carried off. It’s amazing the difference this simple solution has had on our property. We went from not being able to step outside without getting ticks, to only finding a few all season.

  5. You should probably NOT use dryer lint. If you have any synthetics/blends/microfiber in your wardrobe then you are spreading micro particles that not biodegrade and can pollute the environment.

    Instead use pure natural fiber like cotton balls, or wool roving, or anything else you can get that you know is 100% natural with no additives (even 100% cotton shirts if they are wrinkle-resistant have additives).

    1. Agreed, it’s definitely good to use compostable materials in the tick tubes. We don’t buy clothing made from synthetic fibers, so our lint is all cotton, linen and wool-based.

  6. How do you mix the permethrin 10? What is the ratio for the tick tube method? It’s not anywhere on the bottle. You soak the cottonballs first. But we want to make sure it’s done right.

    1. Hi Sally,

      Permethrin comes in both diluted and undiluted forms. If you don’t see any dilution instructions on the bottle, that’s probably an indication that you bought some that’s already been diluted. That’s usually the case with permethrin that comes in a spray bottle. I buy a concentrated form to save money, so I have to dilute it. Look at the bottle again, and see what the use instructions say. If it just calls for using the permethrin as is; then, you can apply it to the cotton balls without diluting first. If you still aren’t sure, check the company’s website or consumer hotline for more detailed information.

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