Protection against Lyme Disease in Nova Scotia*

The first line of defense is to know where and when one could get bitten by ticks carrying Lyme disease and to take precautionary measures accordingly.

Highest Risk Areas - see
NS Gov. Website on
Lyme's Disease
This website provides information or links to information about the occurrence and ecology of Lyme-carrying ticks and precuations that can be taken to avoid getting bitten.

Visitors to the site are encouraged to sign a petition to help put pressure on our health officials and politicians to allow & promote safe and sensible use of permethrin treated clothing & other fabrics (e.g. tents) in Canada.
Children are the most susceptible
"Studies have shown that Picaridin [also known as Icardin] is effective, safe and has fewer unpleasant qualities than DEET. Picaridin is odorless, does not melt plastics, or feel oily on skin." 1

From Consumer Reports, May 20152: Picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus - two repellents introduced in the last decade - make good alternatives to deet. Here's why. They Work... They're Safer..."

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is available in Canada
, e.g. at MEC.

1. Indiana University Bloomington Health Center. 2. Consumer Reports: What really works against bug bites. 3. Canadian Pediatric Society: Preventing mosquito and tick bites: A Canadian update
PiActiveSawyers Fisherman's Formula (20% picardarin), popular in the U.S., is not available in Canada, but a similar product was recently approved:

Kuus Inc. MS0022 - PiACTIVETM Airosolª 150g BOV SPRAY, contains 20% icardarin

"Icaridin is considered to be the repellent of first choice by the Public Health Agency of Canada's Canadian Advisory Committee on Tropical Medicine and Travel for travellers six months to 12 years of age. Products containing up to 20% icaridin.. are considered to be safe and efficacious."3

*Page transferred to this site from on May 2, 2016
Last modified 5 July 2016


It's Nymph time..

" Nymphs are active May-August, and are most commonly found in moist leaf litter in wooded areas, or at the edge of wooded areas. The eight-legged, pin-head sized nymph typically attaches to smaller mammals such as mice, voles, and chipmunks, requiring 3-4 days to fully engorge. Nymphs also readily attach to and blood feed on humans, cats and dogs. Once fed, they drop off into rodent burrows or leaf litter in animal bedding areas where they molt and emerge as adults in the fall." -

The four most common species [of ticks in Nova Scotia], based on reports, in order of occurrence (reporting) are Wood/Dog Ticks, Black-legged Ticks, Groundhog Ticks and Rabbit Ticks. -Andrew Hebda (Nova Scpotia Museum of Natural History) on NatureNS, 7 May 2016. For some pics, see Four common ticks in Pennsylvania
Andrew continues: " There are an additional 10 species recoded here, based on specimens, but the remaining ones appear uncommon."

Donna Lugar talks about ticks in Halifax area, including the need to check dogs for ticks in this CTV interview (Apr 30, 2015)
- From recent, May 2015 (public) posts on NatureNS: "'s office here in Annapolis Royal... mentioned that there have been three cases of Lyme in this area -- so they have been informing pet owners to be particularly vigilant... Southwest Nova seems to be a hotbed of Lyme-carrying deer ticks. In one particular area, just outside of the town of Yarmouth, there is a large white-tail deer population--very visible, of course, because this is a residential area. The local vet`s office that has noticed that the 2-3 dogs they diagnose with Lyme per week often come from homes within the deer-populated area."

&.. more about diseases carried by ticks on dogs: Lyme disease deer ticks may not be the only ones we have to worry about - An increased number of ticks in Nova Scotia, says Dalhousie researcher. View (May 5, 2015)

"Most humans are infected through the bites of immature ticks called nymphs. Nymphs are tiny (less than 2 mm) and difficult to see; they feed during the spring and summer months. Adult ticks can also transmit Lyme disease bacteria, but they are much larger and may be more likely to be discovered and removed before they have had time to transmit the bacteria. Adult Ixodes ticks are most active during the cooler months of the year." -CDC Lyme disease transmission

See Deer Tick Ecology, a page on the website of the American Lyme Disiease Foundation for more about the life cycle and ecology of deer ticks.

New Review Article: Banks, S.D. et al. 2014. Insecticide-treated clothes for the control of vector-borne diseases: a review on effectiveness and safety Medical and Veterinary Entomology.doi:10.1111/mve.12068
Thanks to Donna Lugar for forwarding this reference.

Bill, C-442, the Federal Framework on Lyme Disease Act, passed in House of Commons in June, 2014; and in the Senate on Dec 12, 2014. The Bill "will establish a framework for collaboration between the federal, provincial and territorial Health Ministers, representatives of the medical community, and patientsÕ groups to promote greater awareness and prevention of Lyme disease, to address the challenges of timely diagnosis and treatment, and to push for further research." (Source).


About the ticks and the disease
& prevention

Permethrin-treated clothing is not a panacea for preventing tick bites and Lyme disease. The more one knows about the habitats and life cycle of the ticks, the incidence of Lyme, and other preventative actions, the better.
In the Press Examples of products available in the U.S. Endorsement of permethrin treated fabrics by Canadian Government Agencies
  • Statement on Personal Protective Measures to Prevent Arthropod Bites) - see item #9. This advice goes back to at least 2005

  • Insect bite prevention

  • DND Procurement 2013
    "The Canadian Forces Health Services Group has a multi-year requirement for the procurement of insect repellent commonly referred to as permethrin. This requirement for permethrin has two components: (1) permethrin 0.5% aerosolized clothing treatment; and (2) permethrin 40% pouch system. The annual volume is estimated at approximately 10,000 of permethrin 0.5% aerosolized clothing treatments and 20,000 permethrin 40% pouch systems per year."

Research on permethrin treated clothing In the cooler seasons...

Remain vigilant throughout the year: black-legged ticks can be active any time the temperature goes above 4oC.

"Once attached, they usually feed for about 72 hrs, then drop off, to lay eggs. We are still getting engorged ticks at the Museum.. a bunch this week. They will stay active through the winter...[we] have had submissions from every month through the winter for the last 2 years... this year looks no different (mostly Black-legged (Deer) ticks."- Post by Andrew Hebda, Curator of Zoology at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History on NatureNS listserv, Nov. 27, 2014.

"Ticks are active anytime the temps go above 4C. That can even happen in the middle of winter as they can hang out in leaf litter under snow and suddenly show up on a warm day. They are ingenious little beasties." - Post by Helene Van Doninck DVM of the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre on NatureNS listserv, Nov. 24, 2014.

Black-legged ticks that bite during late fall and winter months are the larger adults, so are easier to spot than the very small nymphs that peak in mid-summer.

2015 was a rough winter for us (humans) in Nova Scotia, but not for ticks.
Andrew Hebda at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History responded to a query about "...the impact this winter would have on Nova Scotia's tick populations? Would they do well hidden under the snow or would the snow cover and cold weather negatively impact the population? Different situations for different tick species?"

Here is Andrew's response:

"The tick species that have overwintered in the leaf litter would benefit greatly from the heavy snow cover... No real issue with winter mortality. Being cold-blooded, their winter needs are fairly rudimentary. The requirement for blood meals is to allow for transformation to the next developmental stage, or if adult female, to help "ripen" the eggs. Since they are flexible in host, a hard winter for one or several host species would not be a serious issue for them.

"So from the ticks' point of view, it has been a long, but gentle, winter.

"In sequence from most common still is the Wood/Dog Tick, Black legged (Deer) tick and Grounhog tick, with the remaining 11 species probably loosely scattered throughout."
Source: NatureNS Listserv


Please sign this Online Petition to help put pressure on our health officials and politicians to allow & promote safe and sensible use of permethrin treatment of clothing & other fabrics (e.g. tents) in Canada. THANKS!

The goal is for 500 people to sign on. The petition was posted in April of 2014. Currently (May 2, 2016) only 201 have signed, which is pretty slow, but some thoughtful and earnest comments have been posted. I will simply leave the petition up until we have 500 signatures, and continue to update information on this site. - David P
More about the permethrin issue

I am a "nature nut", a retired biology prof. and a grandfather. I have been an outspoken critic about misuse of pyrethrins under pesticide by-laws and other legislation limiting cosmetic use of pesticides - so I am not readily disposed to the use of pyrethrin and pyrethroid pesticides more generally. The use of permethrin-treated clothing is a very different matter and does not pose the same threats to bees and aquatic organisms or ourselves posed by our widespread use of pyrethrins & pyrethroids otherwise. Use of such clothing when walking in areas where black-legged ticks carrying Lyme are known to occur and during seasons when they are most active, on the other hand, greatly reduces the chances of getting bitten by these ticks and contacting Lyme disease. In one study there was a 93% reduction in the total incidence of tick bites compared to subjects using standard tick bite prevention measures.

I spend as much time exploring natural
areas as I can, as well as promoting such activites more broadly. I am particularly concerned about children's susceptibility to ticks and Lyme disease - we want them to enjoy nature, but use of DEET, one of the tick preventation measures advised by our health officials, is not a good option for children.

Permethrin-treated clothing, however, has no such restrictions and used in combination with a personal pesticide on exposed skin is described as being 100% effective in preventing tick bites. Scientific studies may not support the 100% estimate but do show that use of permethrin-treated clothing reduces tick bites very substantially (93%) over only using personal pesticides. (I prefer repeated applications of natural pest repellents, rather than DEET on exposed skin.) Tents and other fabrics can also be treated with permethrin, adding to protection.

Permethrin treatment of fabrics - NOT like spraying on a bit of personal repellant and NOT like spraying crops or fogging with permethrin
Permethrin treatment of clothing is not like spraying a bit of personal mosquito repellant on clothing or skin. Rather it is a process for treating fabrics that will bind the permethrin, which apparently many fabrics do quite readily.

In the U.S., you can purchase, hats, shirts, pants, socks, tents, blankets and other gear pre-treated by the patented Insect Shield process which is said to retain the permethrin for over 70 washes. You can also purchase 0.5% permethrin spray to treat your own clothing - it is advertised as effective through 6 washings, however, a Canadian scientific study found that "Both the Insect Shield fabric and the permethrin-treated fabric were effective in repelling mosquitoes before and after 75 cycles of laundering."

An important benefit of this technology is that permethrin is NOT sprayed directly on skin, nor is it released readily from clothing, thereby reducing any possible toxicity to the wearer compared to spraying pesticides on skin, or that do not bind to clothing fabrics. Even Pyrethrum (a natural chemical in the same class) has signficiant toxicities to humans, see Insecticide Factsheet on Pyrethrins/Pyrethrum and probably should not be applied to skin.

Permethrin is highly toxic to bees and to many aquatic organisms, discussed on the US EPA Reregistration Eligibility Decision (RED) Fact Sheet. While concerns and cautions are expressed in that document about ecological effects of using permethrin in crop spraying, mosquito abatement, and about residential uses, such concerns are NOT cited in regard to permethrin-treated fabrics.
Remarkably, permethrin products for treating clothing and clothing pre-treated with permethrin are NOT available in Canada. That's because the federal agency which regulates sale and use of pesticides, the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), has not approved use of permethrin to treat fabrics, or the sale and use of pre-treated fabrics, in Canada. Hence we cannot purchase such products in Canada, and presumably could be prosecuted for importing and using them in Canada. Perhaps for that reason, there is a dearth of discussion about this option in Canada.

At least one application to the PMRA to register such products was made in 2007 or earlier and there may have been others. The PMRA will not reveal why such applications may have been turned down or even whether there are any such applications currently being considered (see letter).

On the other hand, the Canadian military makes use of permethrin treated fabrics and Health Canada (the agency overseeing the PMRA) advises Canadians to use permethrin-treated clothing to protect themselves against insect-carried diseases when visiting other countries. Further, permethrin is registered for a wide range of other uses in Canada. These include treatment of head lice infestations in children.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises use of permethrin-treated fabrics as a key tool for preventing tick bites.
  • Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and remains protective for up to 70 washings.

  • clothing
    So why the PMRA & Health Canada are, apparently, reluctant to register (PMRA) such products in Canada and to promote their use (Health Canada) is a mystery. It seems unlikely it is because of possible adverse effects on the user as the permethrin is bound to the clothing, and permethrin is considered safe enough to be used against lice on children. Except for dealing with the disposal of permethrin-treated clothing, there would seem to be no significant environmental issues, which is not the case in relation to many of the pyrethrin- and pyrethroid-based pesticides approved by the PMRA which are highly toxic to beneficial insects and to many aquatic organisms. Currently, according to the PMRA database, there are 345 registered products containing permethrin in Canada!

    I became aware of the "permethrin clothing option" only after being treated with tetracycline antibiotics in the spring of 2013. I had removed an engorged black-legged tick from my body that was likely picked up in Worcester Mass six days prior to my finding it. (It had escaped body inspection at the time.) There is a high incidence of Lyme in ticks in that area. I later inquired on a listserv subscribed to by naturalists as to their best practices for preventing tick bites and was told about the permethrin option, but also that it was unavailable in Canada. I attempted to find out why but without success. I have recently written Dr. Robert Strang, Chief Public Health Officer for Nova Scotia (see letter of April 3, 2015) about the issue and he has agreed to pursue it. I am sure he will, but in the meantime, I think it helps to raise awareness about this option, and the lack of it in Canada, hence this web page and the petition.
    --David Patriquin


    April 28, 2014
    May 6, 2015: Dr. Strang responds (bolding mine to highlight his main points): "
    While I would like to see permethrin treated clothing available in Canada as an option for people, and I appreciate your passion on this issue, it is only one very small piece of preventing Lyme Disease. In the end, while good to have, permethrin treated clothing is not a necessity for Lyme Disease prevention... I have raised the issue with PHAC and Health Canada and need to leave it to them as it is within their regulatory mandate. I firmly believe that it will be consumer demand, and not advocacy from other levels of government, that creates action on this specific issue. Details
    So...advice from health officals at the provincial (NS) level: drive to Maine, perhaps all of the way to Newport Maine, buy some permethrin-treated clothing and someday, someone will take some initiative to make such products available in Canada... and then someday Health Canada will change the regulations that currently prevent that happening.

    In the meantime, at the federal level, Health Canada will continue to advise Canadians* to use such products outside of Canada, but only products from the U.S.A., and in Canada to find suppliers that ignore the Canadian regulations that Health Canada maintains.
    *Re: item #9 under Insecticide Barriers in Health Canada's Statement on Personal Protective Measures to Prevent Arthropod Bites.

    From Health Canada website on traveling abroad under Insect- and tick-borne diseases:

    Your first line of protection against any insect- or tick-borne disease is to practise protective measures to avoid insect bites:
    • Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved, loose-fitting shirts that are tucked in at the waist, long pants, shoes (not sandals) and a hat to cover exposed skin. In tick-infested areas, you can also tuck the cuffs of your pants into your socks, shoes or boots and tape them in place. Use insect repellent on exposed skin. Insect repellents containing DEET or Icaridin (also called Picaridin) are the most effective; use as directed by the manufacturer. Apply sunscreen first, if needed, followed by the repellent.
    • Stay in well-screened or completely enclosed air-conditioned rooms or sleep under an insecticide-treated bed net.
    • Inspect your body and clothing for ticks during outdoor activity and at the end of the day. Wear light-coloured or white clothing so that ticks can be more easily seen.
    • Apply a permethrin insecticide to your clothing and other travel gear for greater protection. Use only products manufactured for clothing and gear and don't use them directly on skin. Permethrin-treated clothing is effective through several washes. Although permethrin-treated products aren't readily available in Canada, a travel health clinic can advise you how to purchase permethrin and pre-treated gear before or during your trip.
    So Health Canada advises use of permethrin treated clothing to prevent tick bits when travelling outside of Canada , but the same agency, apparently, opposes its use inside of Canada and won't explain why.