Friday, 20 September 2013

Summer's on its way

And here's the first tick of the season.

It is probably a paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus), but I am not good at identifying acarines. This is unfortunate, because I am so good at attracting them. (The same applies to leeches.)

We're looking at the tick from the dorsal side. The mouthparts are buried deep into the side of my knee (which is not normally that red, but I had just scratched it, before noticing the hitchhiker). The eight legs, opaque scutum (shield) and blood filled diverticula of the mid-gut are all visible. Moments later, all parts of the tick were still visible, but as constituent tissues spread out on a piece of kitchen paper.

I don't find tick bites to be much more than an itchy nuisance*, but it's a different story for people who are allergic to tick saliva or who are subjected to numerous tick bites in a short space of time. Many native marsupials are resistant to the effect of paralysis ticks, but flying foxes, which pick up ticks when they feed on low flowers and fruit, and domestic animals are often badly affected. 

From the first link:
For the tick's natural hosts, paralysis isn't usually a problem. Bandicoots (the most common host), koalas and other marsupials develop immunity through regular exposure. But less-preferred hosts, such as dogs and cats, often don't get the chance to acquire immunity. An estimated 10-20,000 are paralysed annually, with hundreds dying. Other animals are also affected, including spectacled flying-foxes, a threatened species native to north Queensland, which have died in their thousands. 

The Tolga Bat Hospital deals with tick-affected bats by the crate-load.

Here comes summer. 


* But I reserve the right to complain loudly and at length about tick bites, no matter how big or small their effect.


Denis Wilson said...

Down here, (southern NSW) the Echidnas always seem to have ticks - big fat ones.
Totally immune to toxins, it seems.

Snail said...

Same with the possums here. Enormous ticks that they seem quite oblivious to.

Sherrie York said...


Thank you for lowering the pedestal upon which I have placed your surroundings. Birds? Delightful. Marsupials and mammals? Adorable, generally. Snakes? Okay as long as they don't come in the house and make themselves comfortable under the bed or on top of the bookshelf. Or in my shoes. Gaudy and peculiar insects? Amusing, and easily escorted outside if they become lost.

Ticks? Not so much. I draw my boundary at my own skin, thank you very much. Please stay out from under it.

Snail said...

I feel quite the same way, Sherrie! Ticks are in my top ten list of things to watch out for in the tropical north.

sarala said...

I find them pretty gross myself. I've had only one or two encounters and that is plenty. Do you have tick diseases down your way? Here we have to be careful.

Snail said...

We do, sarala. Tick typhus (spotted fever) is the principal tick-borne disease. It's not common, thank goodness. I always pay attention after tick bites...just in case.

biobabbler said...

"as constituent tissues spread..."
word nerd swoon. NICE.

re: tick. ew. (but, also, very interesting stuff)

Never had a dog, so never got used to them. Seldom encounter them, thankfully. Mosquitoes, on the other hand, fly MILES to take bites out of my face which develops welts & turns me into a 3 hour circus freak.

I think that needs to be on a t-shirt.

Happy summer tidings! =)

Snail said...

The full ticks you see on possums, echidnas, bandicoots etc here are smooth and glossy like marbles. Just revolting.

I read about your mossie attack on Twitter, but I didn't have the right words!

Jeni at Northern Rivers Dreaming said...

I've had four this last month. Not a happy rabbit.

Snail said...