Header: Australian Paralysis Tick. Photo by Robert Whyte.
No one likes getting bitten by wildlife. Whether it be a spider, ant, tick or snake – rarely do we invite their physical contact. Despite an international reputation of being a land of biting animals, thankfully very few people in Australia have died from native wildlife related injuries in recent times. According to seemingly reliable online statistics, it would seem that European Honeybees are about twice as deadly (responsible for an average of ten Australian deaths annually) as native animals (responsible for about four deaths annually), with the key culprits being snakes and sharks.
Possibly the most troubling animal we have to deal with as bush regenerators is the Paralysis Tick. Compared to other dangerous wildlife in SEQ, ticks are much more abundant, widespread and undetectable when compared to venomous snakes, funnel-web spiders or jumping ants, as examples. Paralysis Ticks can kill people with young children being the most vulnerable. Every bush regenerator I know has been bitten by a tick, and all of them would have captivating tick stories to tell. Ticks can make you quite ill and they should be taken seriously.
I was therefore delighted to come across a straight-forward, well-illustrated free publication from the Australian Association of Bush Regenerators, released in May 2014 entitled Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases: protecting yourself. It contains the most concise collection of information regarding tick removal and prevention processes that I am aware of, and thus I would like to share some of its key messages.
In summary, there are three recommended methods to remove adult ticks:
- Manual removal using fine pointed tweezers or a specifically designed tick- removal device.
- Chemically kill the tick while it is still attached using a pyrethrin containing insecticide designed for topical use such as Lyclear®.
- Chemically kill the tick while it is still attached using an ether containing spray, such as Aerostart® or Wart-O Freeze®.
In early 2014, a Land for Wildlife Officer removed 120 tiny ticks after visiting a property and understandably felt quite ill. According to Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases: protecting yourself the best ways to remove large infestations of larval or nymph ticks are to apply benzyl benzoate or apply Lyclear®, or take a bicarb soda bath by dissolving two cups of bicarb soda in a deep bath.
Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases: protecting yourself also offers a compilation of information on tick biology, tick-borne diseases and tick allergies. I know bush regenerators who have nearly died from tick-induced anaphylaxis and those who have developed severe allergies to red meat due to tick bites and those who have become very ill due to tick-borne infections such as tick typhus. This publication delves into these ailments and also presents evidence that Lyme disease, or a Lyme disease-like illness is present in Australia and is transmitted by ticks.
Despite these facts, ticks should not deter us from bush regeneration. We need more people interacting with, caring for, and learning about Australian ecosystems than being fearful of wild places. I hope that this publication helps make bush regeneration safer for Land for Wildlife members by helping us choose preventative clothing or sprays, giving us tips on what to do when we come across ticks, and helping us stock our first-aid kits with appropriate tick treatments to take care of ourselves.
You can download Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases: protecting yourself at www.aabr.org.au > Learn > Publications. Or ask your Land for Wildlife Officer for a copy.
Please help tick researchers
Two research projects are underway exploring ticks and tick-borne diseases. Both projects need tick specimens so please help by sending ticks to:
- Murdoch University Research. Contact Research Assistant, Alex Gofton, on 08 9360 2312 or [email protected] murdoch.edu.au and request a collection kit and instructions.
- University of Sydney Research. Alive ticks (nymphs and unengorged adults) place in a ziplock bag with moist blades of grass and post to: Ann Mitrovic, School of Medical Sciences (Pharmacology), University of Sydney, Room 294 Blackburn Building D06, University of Sydney NSW 2006. Dead ticks can be posted without moisture and can be frozen. Engorged adults need to be sent in a plastic vial which can be provided by contacting [email protected] sydney.edu.au. Make sure you clearly label any specimens with your name, contact details, collection location and date.
Article by Deborah Metters
Land for Wildlife Regional Coordinator SEQ Catchments