Ticks – what every wildlife enthusiast should know
If you wander the byways and grasslands almost anywhere in the world you will soon encounter one of these arachnids. Eight-legged little delights! Relatives of the spiders. They are common locally but I’m unaware of Lyme Disease here.
There are over twenty different species of tick found in the UK. The most likely species to bite humans is the Sheep tick Ixodes ricinus, however bites from the Hedgehog tick (Ixodes hexagonus) are also reported.
Ticks are external parasites, living by feeding on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. Because of their habit of ingesting blood, ticks are vectors of many diseases that affect humans and other animals.
With high populations of both pheasants and deer Harewood Forest and other local areas are likely to have a high population of ticks and you should check yourself after visiting.
More advanced information: know your local ticks.
For an ecosystem to support ticks, it must satisfy two requirements; the population density of host species in the area must be high enough, and humidity must be high enough for ticks to remain hydrated.
Due to their role in transmitting Lyme disease, ticks have been studied to develop predictive models for ideal tick habitats. According to these studies the presence of a sandy soil, hardwood trees, rivers, and the presence of deer – were all determined to be good predictors of dense tick populations.
A habitat preferred by ticks is the interface where a grassland meets woodland. Ticks like shady, moist leaf litter with an overstory of trees or at least shrubs, and they deposit their eggs into such places in the spring, so that the larvae can emerge in the autumn and crawl into low-lying vegetation. The 3 m of boundary closest to the grassland’s edge is a tick migration zone, where 82% of tick nymphs in grass are found.
Ticks attaches to its host and can bite painlessly. They are initially are unnoticed, and they remain in place until they engorge and are ready to change their skin; this process may take days or weeks. (Hopefully not on you!)
Ticks are extremely tough, hardy, and resilient animals. They can survive in a near vacuum for as long as half an hour. Their slow metabolism during their dormant periods enables them to go long periods between meals. During droughts, they can endure dehydration without feeding for as long as eighteen weeks. To keep from dehydrating, ticks hide in humid spots on the forest floor or absorb water from moist air.
Leg one contains a unique sensory structure, Haller’s organ, which can detect odours and chemicals emanating from the host, as well as sensing changes in temperature and air currents. Ticks can also use Haller’s organs to perceive infrared light emanating from a host. They know we are there!
Some ticks attach quickly, while others wander around looking for thinner skin, such as is found on the ears of mammals. Depending on the species and life stage, preparing to feed can take from ten minutes to two hours. On locating a suitable feeding spot, the tick grasps the host’s skin and cuts into the surface. It extracts blood by cutting a hole in the host’s epidermis, into which it inserts its mouth parts and prevents the blood from clotting by excreting an anticoagulant. Their weight may increase by 200 to 600 times compared to their pre-feeding weight.
UK ticks require three hosts, and their lifecycles take at least a year to complete. Thousands of eggs are laid on the ground by an adult female tick. When the larvae emerge, they attach and feed primarily on small mammals and birds. After feeding, they detach from their hosts and moult to nymphs on the ground, which then attach and feed on larger hosts before dropping off yet again in order to moult into adults. Adults seek out a third host on which to feed and mate. Female adults engorge on blood and prepare to drop off to lay her eggs on the ground, while males feed very little and remain on the host in order to continue mating with other females.
NHS _ Symptoms of Lyme disease
Many people with early symptoms of Lyme disease develop a circular red skin rash around a tick bite.
The rash can appear up to 3 months after being bitten by a tick and usually lasts for several weeks.
Most rashes appear within the first 4 weeks.
A classic bull’s-eye Lyme disease rash on an arm.
The rash is often described as looking like a bull’s-eye on a dartboard.
A circular red Lyme disease rash on an arm.
The skin will be red and the edges may feel slightly raised.
Not everyone with Lyme disease gets the rash. Some people also have flu-like symptoms in the early stages, such as: a high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery; headaches; muscle and joint pain; tiredness and loss of energy
Only a small number of ticks are infected with the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.
A tick bite can only cause Lyme disease in humans if the tick has already bitten an infected animal. But it’s still important to be aware of ticks and to safely remove them as soon as possible, just in case.
Ticks that may cause Lyme disease are found all over the UK, but high-risk areas include grassy and wooded areas in southern England and the Scottish Highlands. To remove a tick safely:
Use fine-tipped tweezers or a tick-removal tool (above|). You can buy these from some pharmacies, vets and pet shops.
Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
Slowly pull upwards, taking care not to squeeze or crush the tick. Torture it when you have removed it.
Clean the bite with antiseptic or soap and water.
The risk of getting ill is low. You do not need to do anything else unless you become unwell.
Yes, the red bit is mine.