Safest way to remove ticks
Watch this short video from Tick Safe that clearly demonstrates the safest way to remove ticks.
Ticks and, in particular, paralysis ticks are one of the most dreaded biting pests we have. There are a lot of good reasons not to get bitten by ticks, so for many people around coastal parts of eastern Australia the presence of ticks means they’ve given up gardening or no longer let the kids play outside. At TickSafe we’ll give you back your garden. We want you to know as much about ticks as we do, so here’s a list of questions and answers that explain many things about ticks, their ecology and life cycle.
Grass ticks, Bush ticks, Seed ticks, Shellback ticks, Bottle ticks, Scrub ticks, Wattle ticks, Hardback ticks, Shower ticks, Bluebottle ticks.
Guess what? These are all just different names for exactly the same species. The Australian Paralysis Tick – Ixodes Holocyclus. read more
A very common mis-understanding about ticks comes from the names people call them. At each stage of a tick’s life they look very different and their size changes immensely, which is why they have so many different names. Where people encounter ticks also leads to names like “Scrub Tick”, “Wattle Tick” or “Lantana Tick”. Newly hatched paralysis ticks that attach to your skin will often be called “Grass Ticks” or “Seed Ticks”. Once ticks move into their adult phase they may be called “Bush Ticks” or “Hardback Ticks” and once they engorge themselves on blood, in preparation for their egg laying phase and grow into the ugly, swollen ticks you dread most, they may be called “Shellback Ticks”, “Bottle Ticks” or “Dog Ticks” (even though, correctly, Dog Ticks are another unique species).
So, be aware, that although there are around 75 species of tick in Australia, the majority of ticks found up and down the East Coast, including Sydney, are Australian Paralysis Ticks. Don’t be mis-led by anything else you hear – we know of one recent case where a northern Sydney veterinary surgeon told a client not to worry about the many small ticks on her dog as they were just “Grass Ticks”. There is no such species of tick and they were, in fact, juvenile paralysis ticks. And TickSafe can rid your garden of them.
Australia has about 75 species of ticks and all of them can spread disease, however the most common local variety of tick is uniquely dangerous. The Australian Paralysis Tick is an arachnid, so it’s more like a spider than an insect. It has potent neuro-toxins within it’s own saliva that are genetically similar to the poison from a scorpion – and it injects this saliva into your blood every time it bites. These saliva toxins are what causes the acute allergy leading to paralysis – but before that point is reached you can suffer swelling of the face and throat, intense, uncontrollable itching, large spreading sores, welts and rashes. Children under 5 are at greater risk from actual paralysis that starts with loss of muscle control. read more
But allergy is only one part of it. Paralysis ticks ALSO spread diseases including Australian Tick Typhus a.k.a. Spotted Fever which is a form of Rickettsial bacterial infection. Another disease very similar to Lyme disease is also recognised. This can have debilitating health effects lasting for years with symptoms ranging from fevers, fatigue, sore throat and headache through to severe joint pain, meningitis, Bell’s palsy and heart complications.
The most recently identified tick illness is Mammalian Meat Allergy (MMA). This happens when ticks transfer a carbohydrate called alpha-gal from a non-human mammal’s blood into a human’s bloodstream as it moves from one “host” to another. This carbohydrate is foreign to human bodies and in some people antibodies are produced that can provoke a violent anaphylactic reaction when that person subsequently eats any type of red meat, all of which naturally contain alpha-gal – which the body now identifies as a toxic substance.
This reaction to eating red meat may not happen for months after the infected tick bite and then may be delayed for several hours after the meat is eaten. A neighbour of one of TickSafe’s founders had to be rushed to hospital and put on life support spending three days in intensive care before she recovered from her first bout of MMA. Worst of all, an affected person can never eat red meat again, and in some cases dairy products, as the same reaction is probable every time.
For pet owners bites from ticks are a serious and very expensive worry. Dogs are especially vulnerable, with many dying from tick bites in Australia every year. Your dog can’t tell you when they have an itchy spot once a tick starts biting them and even if you often check your dog’s coat it can be very hard to find ticks. If an adult tick has attached itself to your dog and is not removed it would normally feed on your pet’s blood for at least 6 days. By the fourth day of a tick bite, most dogs will start to lose muscle control which, untreated, rapidly leads to paralysis and death. Vets can help in many, but not all, cases. At TickSafe we have first hand reports from our clients of vet bills following tick bites on dogs ranging from $4000.00 up to $15,500.00. And it’s not just dogs that can be affected. Cats, rabbits, backyard chickens, Guinea pigs along with horses, goats, lambs and ponies are at risk. A study published by the Australian Veterinary Association reports cases of large horses that were paralysed and unable to stand up following bites from a single tick.
If you need to be in areas that are prone to ticks there are some simple steps you can take to reduce your chances of being bitten. For a start wear long sleeves and long pants, preferably tightened at the wrists and ankles. Ticks do not drop from trees onto people, but wearing a hat might help prevent a tick from attaching to your head if you brush past it. read more
Paralysis ticks don’t technically “bite”. They are a parasite and insert their sharp, barbed mouth parts into your skin to get to your blood which they eat for nourishment. They are an egg laying animal. Research by the University of Queensland shows that a single tick will lay between 1,500 and 10,000 eggs. Each of these hatches out as a miniature version of the adults – although adult ticks have 8 legs while juveniles have 6. read more
Ticks must feed on the blood of another animal, called a “host” at three distinct times in their lives. In nature this would normally be a native animal, in particular bandicoots, possums and echidnas plus wallabies, wombats, lizards and birds. Native animals have evolved alongside paralysis ticks and are immune to their toxins. read more
Dogs and cats along with rats, mice, rabbits, foxes, chickens plus horses, cattle, sheep and goats are other hosts that ticks will attack. Not to mention us humans! When ticks are feeding on a host’s blood they stay firmly attached for between 4 and 10 days and travel wherever that animal goes. Once they have finished feeding they drop onto the ground where they either moult their skin to grow a new one, or if they’re mature, to lay their eggs.
So, a sure way that ticks arrive in your garden is on board another animal. Bandicoots are the most common animal to carry large numbers of ticks, one study showed a single bandicoot carried more than two thousand juvenile ticks over one season! Bandicoot numbers have risen dramatically across urban areas of Sydney over recent years, with tick numbers doing the same. But remember, wandering cats and dogs, possums, birds and even people can also carry ticks into your garden and once they get established their numbers soar. Windy weather will also spread ticks, especially the very small juveniles. If you buy garden products including plants, soil, turf and mulch then ticks might be on board. Gardening equipment used by people who work in your garden may also catch ticks and their eggs allowing them to be carried from one customer’s garden to the next.
Very few people actually see the secretive bandicoot in their garden, but don’t forget that possums, birds, lizards, cats and dogs may also visit your garden carrying ticks. You know you have bandicoots when you find those neat, little, cone shaped holes in your lawn and garden beds. Usually these holes are between 5cm and 8cm deep and are the result of bandicoots digging for lawn grubs and other small creatures that live in the soil. At TickSafe, if we see evidence of bandicoot activity in your garden we will use a treatment formula that also eliminates the lawn grubs that attract the bandicoots to your garden in the first place, but rest assured it will not harm the bandicoots in any way.read more
Ticks do this by climbing up onto plants to a height where they can contact any passing animals. Unfortunately for us humans, we behave in exactly the right way for ticks to also attack us! Once the tick is sitting up high in the grass, branch or leaves it’s chosen, it extends it’s long, claw tipped front legs and waves them slowly back and forth in a behaviour call “questing”.read more
Left undisturbed on your skin a Paralysis Tick would suck blood and feed for between 4 and 10 days depending on which part of the life cycle it’s at. The adult female is the most dangerous Paralysis Tick, steadily injecting toxin while feeding on blood before dropping off to lay thousands of eggs.
Some people call ticks at this stage of their life cycle “Bush Ticks” or “Shell Back Ticks” as they are large, hardened and shiny. The largest females can reach 13mm long once fully engorged on blood and starting to produce eggs. It is important to remember that whatever size they’re at, or name they’re called, if you have ticks in your garden and you’re within 20km of the coast then they are most likely the Paralysis Tick Ixodes Holocyclus and must be treated with extreme caution.
You can start treatment at any time of the year and the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll see tick numbers plummet in your garden. It’s important to understand that ticks do not conform to a set life cycle “calendar” throughout the year. Ticks from all three stages of their life cycle, and their eggs, can be present in your garden right across the year. However, the largest numbers of juvenile ticks will be there in autumn, with the middle phase, called “nymphs”, peaking in winter and the adult numbers peaking through spring and summer. The life cycle of a tick averages 12 to 14 months and their eggs can take up to 6 months to hatch depending on conditions. read more
Watch this short video from Tick Safe that clearly demonstrates the safest way to remove ticks.