TICKS – Blood-sucking arthropods

06/10/2021

Ticks are parasites that feed on animal and human blood and they transmit a variety of infectious organisms; viral, bacterial and fungal pathogens, more than any other group of blood sucking arthropods.  Ticks are second only to mosquitoes in terms of their public health and veterinary importance.

There are more than 800 species of ticks around the world, with 70 found in Australia and 16 species have been reported as feeding on humans. There are two major groups of ticks: hard ticks and soft ticks. Both have their heads and bodies fused together. Hard ticks (family: Ixodidae) have a hard-flat body. The soft ticks (family: Argasidae) have a wrinkled leathery appearance. Only a few species of this type are found in Australia. 

The most important tick in Australia is the Paralysis Tick, Ixodes holocyclus, over 95% of tick bites in eastern Australia are due to this species. As a result of the paralysis tick, poisoning kills many domestic animals, particularly dogs and cats causing discomfort and illness.

Ticks are especially common along the east coast of Australia, in particular the Australian Paralysis Tick which is responsible for most tick bites.

The length of life cycle of the paralysis tick may vary in some stages and can be very protracted. There are four distinct development stages in this species – egg, larva, nymph and adult – and these are much the same for other tick species. Continuity of growth depends on the tick obtaining a blood meal to enable it to pass from one stage to another, and the adult female must have a blood meal for the protein that enables it to produce eggs. To obtain this blood they crawl up on grass or twigs and drop onto passing animals or humans, attaching themselves to the soft skin. They inject a substance to stop the blood clotting and their saliva can be poisonous.

The adult male does not feed on blood and therefore does not become attached to an animal host and cause it distress. It may be distinguished from the female by the large shield or plate that covers its entire upper body surface.

Symptoms of tick paralysis include – rash, headaches, fever, flu-like symptoms, sore glands, walking unsteadily, intolerance of bright light or weak limbs.  Similarly, an allergic reaction to a tick bite can also include swollen throat, difficulty breathing and collapsing.

Control of ticks
There are several things which can be done around the home to reduce tick populations.  It’s important for the homeowner to keep garden foliage trimmed back away from verandas, paths, clothes lines and other areas frequently used. Dense ground covers should be reduced and large quantities of leaf mulch or other organic matter avoided.  Homeowners should wear protective clothing when working in the garden, such as a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, hat and boots.  An insect repellant can also be applied. 

Shane Konzen from Affordable Pest Control in Sydney, is often called out for tick treatments.  Shane said “Living and working on the NSW south coast, we have a high population of ticks and we are always looking to improve our services with tick treatments.  Shane recently began using Suspend® Flexx Insecticide with Partix™ formulation technology.  Mixed at the standard rate of 5ml/L for ticks it works a treat. The results with Suspend Flexx are phenomenal”, he said.

Wendell Arnett, Territory Business Development Manager (PPM) – NSW/ACT

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