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The species of tick in Pittwater is Ixodes holocyclus.  It is also known as the 'Paralysis Tick', 'Scrub Tick', 'Bush Tick' or 'Shell-back Tick'. The larval stage of the Ixodes holocyclus is also known as a 'Seed Tick' or 'Grass Tick'.

Tick Life Cycle

The Paralysis Tick's annual life cycle is:

  1. During Autumn, tick larva hatch and feed on a host, moulting to the next stage in moist vegetation.
  2. During Winter, nymphs emerge and again feed, and in moist vegetation again moult to the next stage.
  3. During Spring, adults emerge with females feeding on a host. The males mate but do not feed.
  4. During Summer, females lay their eggs over several weeks (2,500 - 3,000 per tick) and then die. Only a fraction of these ticks survive to grow to adults.


Ticks are active for most of the year but are most active following rain and periods of high humidity. Their survival is dependent on humidity as ticks desiccate and die in high temperatures and low humidity.

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 bite. 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, kangaroos, wallabies, rabbits and humans. Male ticks rarely feed on a host instead taking their blood meal from the female tick. 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:

  1. Wear long sleeves, tuck shirts into pants, wear long pants tucked into socks and a hat.
  2. Wear light coloured clothing to improve visibility of ticks crawling on clothing.
  3. Wear tropical strength insect repellent, including on hat and clothes. Read the product label and only use those products that are specifically a tick repellent (check the label also for information on the suitability for use on children).
  4. Avoid brushing against vegetation.
  5. Always check for ticks after being outside, although be aware that ticks can wonder on clothes for up to 2 hours looking for a place to attach. Undressed is best, paying particular attention to behind the ears, scalp, groin, armpits and back of knees.
  6. Ticks on clothing can be killed with heat by placing unlaundered clothing in a hot dryer for 15 minutes.
  7. Regularly groom / inspect pets - you may consult your veterinarian about suitable products to prevent tick bite.
  8. Remove any ticks in the correct manner.
  9. Remove weeds from your garden and keep vegetation trimmed near paths.
  10. Maintain road frontages, removing weeds in consultation with Council.
  11. Join volunteer bush regeneration groups, which are supported by Council.
  12. 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, trad, 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

  1. Kill the tick where it is - by either spraying it with a pyrethroid aerosol or dabbing with a permethrin cream. Repeat in one minute. Alternatively, use an ether containing spray to kill the adult tick by freezing it.
  2. Do not attempt to kill the tick with methylated spirits, alcohol, mail polish remover, petroleum jelly, by burning it or by using household tweezers. This aggravates the tick causing it to inject more saliva which can make allergic reactions worse.
  3. Wait for the tick to drop off or remove the tick WITHOUT compressing it. Adult ticks should be firmly scraped out in the opposite direction to the way they are attached. It is preferable for a second person to remove the tick.
  4. Wash your hands and disinfect the bite area.
  5. Mass infestations of small larval or nymph stage ticks are best removed by using a permethrin cream to kill them and then shaving them from your skin.

Do not scratch anything you can't see and seek medical attention if unsure.

Potential Tick Diseases

Individual ticks may carry diseases and bites can lead to infections. Please seek medical attention if unsure.

Tick Paralysis is most likely seen in children. Initial symptoms may include unsteady gait, increased weakness in limbs, multiple rashes, headache, fever, flu like symptoms, tenderness of lymph nodes and partial facial paralysis.

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-like disease in Australia: There is a long standing controversy as to whether Lyme Disease exists in Australia. Lyme disease is caused by spirochete bacteria. Symptoms are varied and include rashes, fever, muscle and joint pain and arthritis. The disease can be chronic but it 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. The Australian Government has set up a Clinical Advisory Committee on Lyme Disease (CACLD) to assess and make determinations on this issue.

Allergic reaction to ticks can be serious and includes anaphylaxis. Ticks, especially a large infestation of the larval stage, can produce severe itching, resulting in hypersensitivity in some individuals.

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately.

Updated: 21 Apr 2015