Ticks in Pittwater
The species of tick in Pittwater is Ixodes holocyclus. It is also known as the 'Paralysis Tick', or 'Shell-back Tick'.
Tick Life Cycle
The Paralysis Tick's annual life cycle is:
- Larva hatch and feed on a host in late February/March
- Moult in moist vegetation
- Emerge as nymph and feed on a host in about July
- Moult in moist vegetation
- Emerge as adults in September/October
- Males mate but don't feed. Females feed on a host
- Lay eggs and die in December/January.
The most problematic time for ticks is October/January during the adult phase of the life cycle, at which time domestic pets and small children may be at high risk of tick poisoning. Remember to daily inspect your pet or child for ticks.
Ticks are a part of the natural environment, and native animals tend to be immune from tick toxin. However increasing human disturbance has resulted in:
- More weeds, which tend to create the moist, warm microclimate such as that favoured by ticks
- Less native fauna such as insectivorous birds and skinks, to eat ticks
- Less incidence of wildfire.
What Do They Feed On?
Ticks feed on any warm-blooded vertebrate, such as birds, possums, rats, dogs, bandicoots etc. Residents sometimes call for the eradication of bandicoots, but bandicoots are protected native animals and play an important role in insect control.
Be Tick Aware
There are many ways that people can take action to reduce the risk of tick bites:
- Wear long sleeves, long pants tucked into socks and a hat
- Wear light coloured clothing to improve visibility of ticks crawling on clothing
- Wear tropical strength insect repellent, including on hat and clothes. Only use those labelled specifically as a tick repellent (not suitable for young children)
- Avoid brushing against vegetation
- Always check for ticks after being outside. Undressed is best, paying particular attention to behind the ears, scalp, groin, armpits and back of knees
- Regularly groom / inspect pets - you may consult your veterinarian about medications
- Remove any ticks in the correct manner
- Remove weeds from your garden and keep vegetation trimmed near paths
- Maintain road frontages, removing weeds in consultation with Council
- Join volunteer bush regeneration groups, which are supported by Council
- Compost using appropriate methods.
It has been found that most enquiries to the Coastal Environment Centre are made by residents with weed infestations on their own or adjacent properties. The weeds most commonly cited are lantana, pampas, morning glory, wandering jew, asparagus fern and madeira vine.
Some people feel that broad-scale spraying would help. However Government laws do not permit this. It would not eradicate all ticks, and could create health problems for people. Spraying also interferes with ecosystem function, affecting other native wildlife which predate on ticks such as birds and skinks, and hence could worsen the problem.
How To Remove A Tick
- Do not attempt to kill the tick with methylated spirits, alcohol, nail polish remover, petroleum jelly or any other substance, as this aggravates the tick causing it to inject more toxin,
- Remove the attached tick with tweezers or a tick remover, by grasping it behind its head as close to the skin as possible. It is preferable for a second person to remove the tick
- If the tick has a firm hold, it can be encouraged to loosen its grip by applying a paste of bicarb soda and holding in place with a bandaid for 15 minutes
- Gently pull the tick out without twisting or jerking it
- Wash your hands, and disinfect the tweezers and the bite
- Mass infestations of small larval or nymph stage ticks are best removed by soaking for 20 minutes in a warm bath with 1 cup of bicarb soda added.
Potential Tick Diseases
A small number of bites can lead to infections, as a fraction of the tick population may carry bacteria.
Tick Typhus or Spotted Fever is caused by the bacteria Rickettsia australis. Symptoms include headaches, rashes (although sometimes absent), swollen glands, fever and flu like symptoms. Generally the fever starts 1-14 days after the tick bite, followed by a rash within a few days.
Lyme disease: Although it has not been clinically proven that Lyme disease actually exists in Australia it is thought that a similar syndrome is present. In the USA it is possible to diagnose Lyme disease, however the bacteria is different in Australia, and research so far has failed to isolate it.
Lyme disease is caused by spirochaete bacteria. Symptoms are varied and include rashes, fever, muscle and joint pain, and arthritis. The disease can be chronic but is rarely fatal and is treatable with antibiotics if promptly diagnosed and correctly treated. Lyme disease is serious for pregnant women as it can infect the unborn baby, and potentially cause miscarriage, still birth and death after birth.
Allergic reaction to ticks can be serious. Anaphylactic shock has also been recorded, although this is rare. Ticks, especially a large infestation of the larval stage, can produce severe itching, resulting in hypersensitivity in some individuals. Chemists can provide anti-itch preparations.
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately.
Updated: 11 Jan 2013