Ticks are responsible for the poisoning of many native and domestic animals, the effects ranging from discomfort and illness to death. In humans effects can range from mild to severe allergic reactions to paralysis. There have been recorded deaths attributed to the paralysis tick. Ticks also have the potential to spread infectious diseases.
Tick Identification and Life Cycle
Ticks are related to the same group of animals as spiders. Their body shape is oval but alters once they are engorged. They have no eyes or antennae. There are four stages in the life cycle – Egg, Larvae Nymph and Adult. The stages tend to be seasonal, with larvae more abundant in late summer/autumn, nymphs during late autumn/winter, and adults during spring/early summer. The complete life cycle takes about one year to complete.
Adult females can lay up to 2500 eggs. Eggs are laid in clumps in moist situations, such as under bark and debris which may be in contact with the ground. Eggs will hatch in 40-60 days depending on temperature and humidity.
Larvae hatch from the eggs, have six legs, and are approx 0.5-1mm in length. They require a blood meal after which they enlarge to around 1.5mm, drop off the host, and molt to become nymphs.
Nymphs have eight legs and are approximately 1-1.5mm in length. They require a blood meal, after which they enlarge to around 3.5mm, drop off the host, and molt to become an adult.
Adults have eight legs and are approximately 3-3.5mm in length. Adults also require a blood meal but for different reasons – the female to lay eggs, the male to mate. A female can enlarge to around 13mm, after which she will drop off the host, lay eggs and die. The male tends not to feed on other hosts, but only on the female tick, so this is of little medical concern.
Food and Habitat
The tick’s only food source is blood of warm-blooded animals. All active stages require a blood meal for nutrition, thus these ticks are known as a three-host-tick. The most common hosts are dogs, cats, echidnas and possums; however most mammals can be infested by ticks. The process of seeking a host is known as questing. The tick climbs to the top of the nearest vegetation and extends or waves its forelegs to and fro in order to make contact with a prospective passing host. Ticks require moist humid conditions for survival. Such conditions limit their distribution and searching behaviour.
Brown Dog Ticks have been found on walls, eaves and pillars of homes. However Paralysis ticks rarely climb higher than 50cm.
Management and Treatment
Management and treatment of ticks is best achieved through an Integrated Pest Management approach. The main options include habitat modification and chemical control; however there are other management methods that may be suitable.
Habitat modification involves altering the environment to make conditions less conducive for tick survival. This is generally best achieved by changing the vegetation to increase the sunlight to the soiled areas. This will increase the surface temperature: which will reduce soil moisture and humidity. By creating drier conditions, the tick population will reduce. In practical terms, this means clearing of brush, removal of leaf litter, removal of low growing vegetation, reduction in heavy foliage cover, and keeping lawns cut. All these methods are designed to increase sunlight penetration to the ground and
reduce humidity levels close to the ground.
Tick Bite First Aid
Removal of the tick can be achieved in many different ways. Never grip the sac and pull! This may squeeze more venom in, or break it off leaving the head and ‘torso’ firmly stuck, which is likely to get infected.
If you think you may have a tick seek medical advice immediately Prevention is better than cure. If you think you have ticks on your property call a licensed pest controller for advice on control.
Everyone’s health protected through Effective pest prevention – call Termite Choices for a Free Quote.