Archive for June, 2015


Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy Habitat Restoration Chair Moni Burke, a Cascades resident, submitted a Lyme prevention article by invitation this month for her community association newsletter.  We are pleased to share the full text here, and we welcome our members and friends to share it with their communities.  (Photo by Jared Garland.)



Lyme Prevention: Highest-Efficacy, Lowest-Cost, and Lowest-Toxicity Methods

Many of the methods for Lyme disease prevention which studies indicate to be most effective are low- or no cost, and carry low or no risk. The highest-efficacy, lowest-cost, lowest-toxicity Lyme prevention methods are tick checks and protective clothing. These personal measures and other effective landscape management methods for the homeowner are outlined below.


1. Personal Protective Measures

A. Tick checks and prompt removal

The definitive Tick Management Handbook states that “checking for ticks and prompt removal of attached ticks is probably the most important and effective method of preventing infection!” – and indeed, most scientific studies have supported this assertion.


B. Protective Clothing

The Tick Management Handbook recommends wearing long pants tucked into socks to make ticks easier to detect and keep them on the outside of the clothes. A 2008 Center for Disease Control (CDC) Connecticut study of nearly 2,000 individuals found protective clothing – defined as long pants and long-sleeved shirts to be 40% effective in preventing Lyme disease. Wearing this type of protective clothing is a risk-free prevention method.


2. Landscape Management

A. Tick-safe zones

According to a study referenced in the Tick Management Handbook, the nymphal blacklegged tick whose bite is the primary cause of Lyme disease in humans, is found mainly in densely wooded areas (67%) and in transitional edge ecotone habitat between woodlands and open areas (22%), which provide the relatively high humidity necessary for their survival. Fewer ticks are found in ornamental vegetation (9%) and lawn (2%).


The Tick Management Handbook, CDC and other sources recommend that families create tick-safe zones in lawns and play areas around their homes – isolating these zones from tick habitat with a wood chip or gravel barrier of approximately 3 feet, and then increasing exposure to sun and air in those zones. The Tick Management Handbook notes that acceptable alternatives to lawn include butterfly gardens, vegetable gardens, formal herb gardens, colonial style gardens, wildflower meadows and hardscapes.


These measures have been shown to reduce tick numbers on the subject property. However, a recent study showed them not to be significantly protective against Lyme disease – and the Tick Management Handbook concludes that “landscape management alone may not reduce disease incidence, as the undetected bite of only one infected tick is required for transmission of Borrelia burgdorferi.” Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacteria causing Lyme disease.


There is no real risk associated with this type of landscape management. The cost will vary depending on lot size and existing landscaping.


B. Replacing exotic invasives with native plants

Multiple studies have shown that controlling invasive plants, especially Japanese barberry, helps to reduce both total tick numbers and infected tick numbers. Two Maine Medical Center Research Institute studies, and the Tick Management Handbook, indicate that blacklegged ticks are significantly more abundant in areas dominated by exotic invasive plants, particularly Japanese barberry, than areas dominated by native shrubs. A 2010 Connecticut study indicates that control of Japanese barberry – either through cutting off the above-ground portion or using a flame treatment – “reduced the number of ticks infected with Borrelia burgdorferi by nearly 60% by reverting microclimatic conditions to those more typical of native northeastern forests.”


Invasive removal alone may in some cases be sufficient for native plants to return to the area without further effort or expense by the homeowner – though in some cases, there may be cost and labor associated with acquiring and planting new native shrubs.


Invasive plant removal carries no risk except for that associated with use of standard garden tools, and it carries many environmental benefits.


C. Promotion of vertebrate biodiversity

Recent research on Lyme disease mitigation points to a whole new paradigm, suggesting that we should focus not on culling or excluding one or two specific tick-carrying mammal species (such as deer or mice), but rather on fostering life for many diverse species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.


At the homeowner or property manager level, one way to promote vertebrate diversity is by replacing exotic invasive plants with native plants, as discussed in section 2B above, and by restoring habitat diversity, health, and complexity. As entomologist Douglas W. Tallamy writes, “because animals directly or indirectly depend on plants for their food, the diversity of animals in a particular habitat is very closely linked to the diversity of the plants in that habitat.”


Some research shows that at the community planning level, a key way to promote vertebrate diversity and thereby reduce Lyme disease risk is to discourage land-use practices that fragment our forests. This is because forest fragmentation tends to favor a small number of mammal species that are relatively likely to infect ticks with Lyme disease bacterium, while reducing populations of other species that are unlikely to be infected with Lyme disease bacterium.


Note on chemical spraying for ticks

The pesticides primarily used for tick spraying are bifenthrin and permethrin, both of which are a pyrethroid that is currently classified by the EPA as a Group C carcinogen (possible human carcinogen – cancer causing) and highly toxic to bees, fish, and aquatic invertebrates.


For further information on Lyme disease mitigation, please visit: PDF_Files/Rebalance_Loudoun_Lyme_Mitigation_Approach.pdf


Moni Burke

Chair, Habitat Restoration

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy


The Monarch Joint Venture, in partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service,  created a wonderful series of webinars on monarch conservation.

You can view the entire series here:

Here are the webinar titles:

Contributions of Monarch Citizen Science & Program Overviews

Enhancing Existing Landscapes for Monarch/Native Pollinators

Habitat Restoration Fundamentals

Monarch Biology and Conservation Basics

Monarch Research and Advanced Topics


This just in from the Loudoun County Master Gardeners – sounds like a great program:

Free Garden Lecture – Good-Bye Grass, Hello Suburban Meadow
Tired of the expense and battle of maintaining a suburban lawn, but don’t want to give up on green?  Please join us at 7pm on Thursday, July 9th as landscape designer Tom Mannion describes the transformation of cookie-cutter grass lawns as small as ¼ acre into healthy landscapes complete with native meadows, pollinator gardens and waves of wildflowers.

Tom will give us the details of suburban redesigns and options you can use in your own yard such as meadow gardens and wet meadows, wildlife welcoming native plants, shady-slope meadows and clover lawns. The MD/DC/VA Landscape Contractors Association has awarded Tom twelve grand and three distinction awards and he has won awards from the Perennial Plant Association. The free lecture will be held at the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office, 30 Catoctin Circle, Leesburg.


For more information about the lecture or the Loudoun County VCE Master Gardener program visit the website: or call the Loudoun Extension Office at 703-777-0373.

Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.  Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments.

A nature walk on the Morven trail.

A nature walk on the Morven trail.

More than 150 members, family, and friends joined in the celebration of Loudoun Wildlife’s 20th year at the Annual Meeting Sunday, May 31, at Morven Park. Predicted showers held off a day, allowing hikers to explore Morven on a nature walk and gardeners to acquire a few more native perennials for their pollinator-friendly plantings, as musicians filled the sultry air with good tunes.

The crowd moved into the coolness of the Carriage Museum for refreshments and the meeting, at which the membership voted to approve the slate of Loudoun Wildlife board members serving another 2-year term (Joe Coleman, Jim McWalters, Sarah Steadman) and new board members (Bill Brown, Hatsy Cutshall, Jill Miller, and Phil Paschall). Outgoing President Joe Coleman thanked outgoing board members Janet Locklear (who also received the Volunteer of the Year Award), Phil Daley (who has been on the board for 19 years), and retiring Secretary Rhonda Chocha for their service.

Outgoing President Joe Coleman with Janet Locklear, Volunteer of the Year.

Outgoing President Joe Coleman with Janet Locklear, Volunteer of the Year.

Coleman shared highlights of the organization’s 20-year history and accomplishments, emphasizing that while the organization’s founders and board members have worked hard to protect wildlife and habitat in Loudoun, “it is you—our members—who have made us the success we are today.” He also thanked Dulles Greenway sponsors for 10 years of support, through grants from the annual Drive for Charity, and Morven Park for serving as Loudoun Wildlife’s home, and for its many partnership efforts.

Science Fair participants Samantha Iliff (Loudoun Valley HS), Corwin Warner (Loudoun County HS), and Eric Esposito (Heritage HS), who placed first, second and third in the Loudoun-Wildlife-sponsored awards for best environmental science project at the Fair, were on hand to display and explain their projects. Youth and Family Programs Chair Sarah Steadman presented their awards.

Miriam Westervelt presented the Roger Tory Peterson Awards for nature journaling

Miriam Westervelt presents Roger Tory Peterson awards for nature journalling to Andrew Thomas, Kevin Natal, and Ashleigh Menzenwerth.

Miriam Westervelt presents Roger Tory Peterson awards for nature journalling to Andrew Thomas, Kevin Natal, and Ashleigh Menzenwerth.

to five students: Kevin Natal, kindergarten (Leesburg ES); Ashleigh Menzenwerth, kindergarten (Frederick ES); Andrew Thomas, senior (Heritage HS); Maggie Lanaghan, senior (Loudoun Valley HS); and Tyler Nelson, senior (Tuscarora HS).

Blue Ridge Center wildlife rehabilitator Jennifer Burghoffer presented the afternoon’s program, sharing her knowledge about the lives of several of the Center’s residents: A barred owl, an opossum, a big brown bat, a wood turtle, and a black rat snake.

Loudoun Wildlife board and staff members extend our thanks to all the Loudoun Wildlife volunteers who helped plan and staff this special event. [Images courtesy of volunteer Judy Smith]

Waterborne Nursery offered native plants for members' wildlife-friendly gardens.

Waterborne Nursery offered native plants for members’ wildlife-friendly gardens.