So, what are ticks?
Ticks are small, spider like creatures with 8 legs. They feed on the blood of animals and humans. Ticks cannot fly or jump – they climb to the tips of vegetation and search for potential hosts to attach to and feed on – like us!
During this feeding process, ticks can transmit infectious diseases, like Lyme disease, Encephalitis and Babesia.
There are approximately 20 species of ticks in the UK – Ixodes ricinus (also known as sheep or castor bean ticks) pose the most threat to people.
Ticks are fascinating creatures; they have sensory cells in their front legs which can detect carbon dioxide, temperature and scent signals – it requires only the slightest of contact between the tick and the host for the tick to latch onto skin.
Ticks behave differently to other insects – they attach and feed for several days until becoming ‘engorged’ and then they detach and drop off.
Ticks can remain attached for anything from 3 days to 10 days. When ticks attach to people, they can be as small as a poppy seed or pin head and so very hard to spot.
Recent research has shown that ticks can live for longer than 27 years!
When are ticks most active in the UK?
Ticks are active between the end of February and October but they can be active all year round. Tick activity peaks in April, May and the Autumn.
Recent research from the US (Jan 2022) has shown that ticks infected with Lyme disease thrive in below-freezing conditions and infected ticks have higher survival rates through the winter compared to non-infected ticks.
Essentially, infection makes ticks more active and eager to bite!
Do ticks attach to pets?
Yes, ticks also attach to household pets!
According to research undertaken by the University of Bristol, approximately a third of dogs in the UK are thought to be carrying a tick!
Ticks are most commonly spotted on pets once they have been attached for several days and are already ‘engorged’.
Where do you find ticks in the UK?
Ticks thrive in any area where there is dense, moist ground vegetation, like woodlands. Ticks are found across the whole of the UK.
They love areas with strong wildlife populations, like deer, cattle, birds and small mammals (hedgehogs, woodmice, foxes). Research shows that small birds and mammals, like blackbirds and rabbits can have 10-20 tick larvae or nymphs on them at any one time!
But, ticks are also found in back gardens and urban parks, like Richmond Park in London.
When to be ‘tick aware’, include:
- Woodland trails
- Forest School
- Gardening (especially clearing of vegetation / leaf litter, building bonfires)
- Park runs
- School field trips
- Outdoor volunteering
- Visiting National Parks / AONB / wildlife reserves
- Urban and London parks
- Duke of Edinburgh
- Nordic Walking / rambling
- Fell / hill running
- Off-road cycling
- Horse-riding / hacking
- Beaches / sand dunes / grasslands / moorlands / heathlands
- Holidaying in European countries and the US where there are ticks
Ticks thrive in any area where there is dense ground vegetation, like woodlands but can also be found in urban parks
How to remove a tick?
Correct removal of ticks is essential. Eyebrow tweezers (and other old wives’ tales, like using a match!) can make the tick burrow further down into the skin.
My shop sells O’TOM tick twisters which are the removers recommended by Lyme disease charities and used by vets. They are reusable and include 2 sizes so you can remove any size tick. You can buy them here.
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Going outdoors. Think tick prevention. Think Botanic Protect.
*Use insect repellents carefully. Always read the label and product information before use*
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