Ticks are commonly encountered across the Northern Beaches. Symptoms from tick bites range from localised irritation, severe allergic reactions, tick paralysis to tick borne illnesses There are some simple steps you can take to protect your family from tick bites and to keep these tiny arachnids out of your garden.

What Do Ticks Look Like?

Ticks have a beak-like mouth piece and a pear shaped body which becomes engorged when feeding. Adult ticks are 4mm in size with 8 legs, nymph stage are 1.2mm and the larvae are 0.5mm in size with 6 legs. The larvae are often difficult to see until engorged.

When Are Ticks Most Likely to Bite?

Ticks are active most of the year but particularly so after rain and periods of high humidity. Ticks are more troublesome during the warmer months, between October and January. Tick related allergy or illnesses are more likely to occur from bites of nymph and adult ticks.

What Do Ticks Feed On?

Ticks feed on blood from animals including birds, possums, rats, dogs, bandicoots, kangaroos, wallabies, rabbits and humans. Female ticks take their blood feed from the host animal. The male ticks attach to feed of the female ticks.

Reduce Your Risk of Tick Bite

You can reduce your risk of tick bite by:

  • wearing long sleeve shirts and tucking shirts into pants
  • wearing long pants tucked into socks
  • wearing a hat
  • wearing light coloured clothing
  • using a tropical strength insect repellent (use on clothes too)
  • wearing permethrin-treated clothing
  • avoiding brushing up against vegetation

Check for Ticks

Ticks can wander for up to 2 hours looking for a place to attach. After being in the garden:

  • check your body particularly behind your ears, scalp, groin, and armpits
  • change clothing, placing unlaundered clothing in a hot dryer for 20 minutes to kill any ticks
  • groom and check pets

Keep Ticks Out of Your Garden

Ticks favour moist humid vegetation close to the ground. Reduce the likelihood of ticks in your garden by:
  • keeping lawn short
  • removing weeds and dead vegetation
  • pruning low vegetation to increase sunlight 
  • using gravel mulches instead of wood chip and straw
  • employing a professional pest controller in areas where ticks regularly occur

Remove a Tick

Kill the tick where it is attached, do not attempt to remove a live tick. If in doubt about removing ticks or you experience any symptoms seek medical attention.

To remove a larvae or nymph:

  • Use a  Permethrin based cream (e.g. Lyclear) and dab onto the tick.
  • Cream is to be applied lightly, rubbing the cream in may disturb the tick.
  • Wait for the tick to die (1 to 3 hours) and avoid disturbing the tick.
  • Once dead, the tick should drop off.

To remove an adult tick:

  • Freeze and kill the tick using an ether containing spray (e.g. wart or skin tag remover). The spray is to be held 0.5cm above the tick and multiple sprays up to 5 times may be required.
  • Wait for the tick to die and avoid disturbing the tick.
  • Once dead, the tick should drop off.

If a dead tick does not drop off it may be removed using surgical tweezers or scraping it out in the opposite direction to the way it’s attached. Do not compress or squeeze the body if required to remove a dead tick.

What Not to Do

Do not use folklore remedies to kill a tick with irritant chemicals such as methylated spirits, alcohol, nail polish remover or petroleum jelly. Do not try to burn it or pull it out with tweezers. These methods aggravate the tick causing it to inject more toxic saliva into you.

Health effects of tick bites

When feeding, ticks inject saliva that contains toxins and potentially pathogens transferred from their last host. Symptoms from tick bites range from localised irritation to serious health effects. These include severe allergic reactions, tick paralysis, mammalian product allergy or tick borne illnesses such as Spotted Fever and Lyme-like diseases.