Watch out for these tiny paralysis ticks

Recently there’s been an explosion of paralysis ticks in Queensland. The combination of wet and warm weather over recent weeks has likely contributed to the increased numbers and reports of paralysis ticks this season.

Paralysis Ticks

The paralysis tick is found within a relatively narrow band down the east coast of Australia and is often encountered by bushwalkers and those in rural areas.

Australian Paralysis Tick, Ixodes holocyclus, unfed female. Image credit: Jeff Wright

In most cases the tick bites are not serious. However, a few people develop life-threatening illnesses such as paralysis, tick typhus (caused by an infection carried by the ticks) or severe allergic reactions.

You can minimise the risk of tick bites by using personal insect repellents and examining children, pets and yourself after returning from known tick-infested areas.

Australian Paralysis Tick, Ixodes holocyclus, larva. Image credit: Jeff Wright

Removing a tick

Ticks feed through barbed mouthparts that pierce the skin and can be difficult to remove. If found after attachment, ticks can be killed using an insecticide (pyrethroid base). 

When removing the tick, it is advised not to grasp the tick’s body as this can result in displacing fluids from the tick into the wound site. Instead, you should use forceps (or tweezers) to grasp the head of the tick as close to the skin as possible, then pull it out.

Australian Paralysis Tick, Ixodes holocyclus, engorged female. Image credit: Jeff Wright

The Department of Health has additional information on preventing tick bites and how to remove a tick if bitten here.

Did you know?

Ticks and mites (Acari) are the largest group of arachnids, but the smallest in size. Most of the 45,000 described species are less than 1 mm in length – that’s tiny!

All ticks are parasites of mammals, birds and reptiles. They’re also much larger than most mites, reaching nearly 30 mm when engorged with blood. Almost 900 species of tick are known, with few new species remaining to be described.

Learn more about parasites here.

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If you have a specific question about wildlife around your home submit it via our ‘Ask an Expert’ page.

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