We know from folklore of course that garlic wards off vampires. But it may also work on something with an equally sinister bite. The city of Kingston is experimenting with garlic as a repellent for ticks in two of its popular dog parks. Some residents in Almonte are trying it out as well.
If this were smell-o-vision, you'd quickly figure out what Kristy Giles is cookin' up in her back yard in a rural part of Lanark County near Almonte..
It’s a store-bought concoction of water and pure garlic to ward off ticks.
“There is a study that shows it is working as a repellent,” says Giles, who has worked in park management for 22 years, currently with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, “It doesn't harm the ticks but repels them.”
Giles contracted Lyme disease after a tick bite during a hike in 2013. She went undiagnosed for years and says she is still suffering from symptoms.
“The last thing I want is another tick bite,” says Giles, “and neither for my dog, who's already contracted Lyme. I'm trying to protect all of us, my family and friends.”
At a dog park in the west end of Kingston, Zack Reeves' dog easily picks up a Frisbee in mid-toss, but picking up ticks could be less likely after the city recently sprayed Rotary Park with a garlic repellent.
“Last year he had plenty,” says Reeves of his dog, “but this year, not very many.”
It is part of a pilot project that started last year in Kingston to control geese, mosquitoes but especially ticks.
Troy Stubinski is the Manager of Operations and Public Works for the City of Kingston, “It's the smell,” he says, “Ticks don't like the smell.”
Stubinsky says the city did some short duration drag tests in Grass Creek Park where they started the pilot project.
“In those shorter durations where we did the drag tests,” he says, “where we had been pulling up a dozen to 20 ticks, we were pulling up, after spraying, 1 to 2, 3 or 4 in there.”
Stubinski says they're working on quantifiable data to see if the garlic works but their sense is this could be a smelly solution.
“After year one, our residents reported positive results,” he says, “where their dogs that had been leaving the park with many ticks were coming home with no ticks on them and residents were happy to see that effect.”
Stubinski says several municipalities have contacted him about the pilot project. The city of Ottawa says it is aware of the project but not involved in it.
“OPH is not promoting the use of garlic repellent as an effective strategy for protection against tick bites or for tick control. OPH encourages residents to apply a Health Canada approved insect repellent containing DEET or icaridin, to help minimize exposure to ticks. For more recommendations to help prevent Lyme disease, please visit our website,” Katie Bourada with Ottawa Public Health responded in an email.
Ed Chodowski is the CEO of Eco-Tick Solutions, which has been contracted by Kingston to do the spraying. Chodowski believes the product is both effective and safe, and tried to prove it to Kingston officials when he met with them initially last year.
“Their first question is how safe is this?” Chodowski recalls, “Me being me, I dumped a bit in my coffee and drank it. I have to believe in something in order for it to work.”
The product isn't cheap; Stubinsky says it can cost between $100 to $200/acre. The city is trying to determine how frequently it needs to spray in order to maximize the efficacy of the product.
Chodowski is convinced it works on many pesky pests.
“Ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers, fleas, black flies. The list goes on,” he says.
Kristy Giles says more research needs to be done on the garlic repellent. But in the meantime, it's one more weapon in the fight against ticks, even if it's a smelly one.
“I think if we can consider all the tools and apply as many as possible,” she says, “then we can go out and feel comfortable and enjoy the outdoors again.”
As you can guess, there is quite a strong odor to this tick repellent. Some residents have complained but the city says the smell is temporary. It dissipates within a few hours.