Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bug Off

There are two worries in my donkey keeping world that I struggle with above all others.  The one is how to keep their weight under control while still keeping them happy.  The other is the ticks and the diseases they bring with them.  The first problem is a management issue that I constantly wrestle with, but I also feel that there is a solution to the problem and that it is just something I have to keep working on.

The tick problem though, feels overwhelming and insurmountable.  Despite all my best efforts, I have a 100% infection rate for Lyme in my herd, in my dog and I have had two other instances of tick borne disease other than Lyme.  The two severe Lyme outbreaks that I have had have cost me over $5000 in vet bills and nearly cost Ben his life earlier this year.

I have become downright obsessive about ticks and I would would call my worry about them and their diseases paranoia except that every time I lay hands on a donkey, I find more of the horrible things.

How does that old saying go?

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean no one is out to get you.

In my never ending quest for tick eradication, I have tried every kind of repellent I could think of, from organic to nuclear.  None have worked well, but some have done more than others.  Lately, I have been using a concoction that includes portions of the most successful repellents mixed together and it is, so far, the most effective bug dope I have used yet.  The concoction is a hybrid mix of lethal and organic and the combination seems to work better than either alone.

I start with a product called Ultra Boss, which is a super concentrated permethrin insecticide.  If used as directed, it can only be used once every two weeks, even though it never works for more than a few days.  It also tends to cause skin irritation in sensitive animals.  It was something I had considered to be a failure for treating anything other than lice.

I use one horse-sized dose as a concentrate that I dilute with water.

To this mix I add 5-6 drops of pure geranium oil.

Because the UltraBoss and the geranium oil are both oils, they do not mix with the water.  To make them mix better, I add about a teaspoon of Lysol.  This also acts as a mild disinfectant and helps heal bug bites.  Do not be tempted to use more as it could cause skin irritation if you do.  More is NOT better with any of these. 

The concoction mixes best if you make it up the day before and let it sit overnight, but that is not absolutely necessary.  Shake the bottle continuously as you spray it on your critter.  I use it 2-3 times per week for tick control and daily when the flies are really bad.

This "recipe" is truly a concoction born of need and was made out of ingredients I had at hand in a moment of desperation.  None of these ingredients had ever worked well on their own (except that I sometimes use the Lysol to treat thrush, it works fairly well for that).  However, I went from finding 20-30 ticks per day to finding 1-2 ticks per week after I came up with this.

It is not perfect (nothing is), but it is the best tick defense I have come up with yet.  It is also easy to use and cheap since the ingredients are so concentrated, one bottle of each will last the whole year.  

This may be one of my odder concoctions, but desperate times call for desperate measures.


  1. interesting. So that has been working? I wonder if I can get the ultra boss here. We can't always get the same stuff in Canada.

  2. I recently visited a barn where the horses were wearing dog tick collars around their necks, and also "bracelets" around their pasterns. I was told that this was effective with no side effects. I'm thinking of trying it.

  3. Good to know. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I have my own concoction of fly spray, I find that I have to stay away from the Lysol as it did cause irritations. The spray I use does only seem to last a day. However I find that mentholatum ointment on the ear tips help with bugs.

  5. You are positively brilliant. Inventive. Courageous. And tenacious. More fodder for your upcoming book.

  6. Thanks for sharing the information. Check your e-mail as I sent you a link to an article from our local newspaper about the symbiotic relationship between fence lizards and tick nymphs I thought you would find interesting. Maybe you need some really big lizards in the woods!