The Life of a Tick.

We had a comment from a reader called Bruce after the post about the cone snail in which he said “Then, there are the ticks…. but that’s another story.”

If there was another story, we need it here on BobinOz! I decided to investigate.

The Tick.

First, let’s look at the life of a tick from the tick’s point of view.

  • Stage one: It’s a little egg sitting on a moist leaf with around 2,999 other little eggs.
  • Stage two: having hatched into a larva, it’s task is to attach itself to an animal or a human to suck their blood.
  • Stage three: the fed larva becomes an 8 legged nymph. Time to hide out in the bushes and leaves or on any vegetation, waiting for another host to leech onto so it can leech off of. If successful, after another seven days of bloodsucking the nymph will drop to the ground.
  • Stage four: our nymph has now become an eight-legged adult tick. Its future activities depends on whether it is a boy tick or a girl tick.

Boy Ticks

He will go looking for girl’s ticks to mate with. Then he dies.

Girls Ticks

She will go looking for a third host to suck the blood from. If successful, after a good feed she will then drop back down to the ground and find a nice quiet spot to give birth to 3000 eggs. Then she dies.

Not a glamorous life, is it?

Are Ticks Dangerous?

Some ticks can carry dangerous toxins and proteins in their saliva, so it is not the blood they suck out that is the problem but rather anything that they dribble back during the process.

In the animal kingdom, bandicoots, koalas and other marsupials have built up an immunity but cats and dogs can become paralysed or even die (“Frontline” is a preventative treatment available from your vet). And as with wasps and bees, (as I mentioned in this post about Australian snakes) humans can enter into anaphylactic shock in an allergic response to tick toxins, although nobody has died because of that here in Australia since 1945.

But ticks aren’t just in Australia, ticks are all over the place. In fact, worldwide it is only mosquitoes that spread more animal and human diseases than ticks do. But this was when I discovered an amazing fact about Australian ticks. Australia ticks are different from most.

Australian ticks do not carry Lyme disease. America’s ticks do. Even the UK’s ticks do. Australia’s? No!

But our ticks are no angels. They can spread tick typhus (also known as Queensland tick typhus and Flinders Island spotted fever), we might get a hundred or possibly 200 cases a year here. But it is treatable with antibiotics or can even be allowed to run its own course. And once you’ve had it, you are pretty sure to be immune from it in the future.

But Lyme disease! That’s not so good. The symptoms are too long and too depressing to list here.

So, largely due to their nasty work abroad, ticks are an Australian bad thing.

Ticks: The Movie

Here, for those who are interested, I present “Ticks: The Movie” starring a tick and directed by dogforahat (in other words, I got it from YouTube). It’s a silent movie, which isn’t such a bad thing. Ticks don’t talk.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Simon October 18, 2012, 7:00 am | Link

    Our dog picked up a paralysis tick two months ago. He was a little off his food but we didn’t suspect anything until he started to walk like a drunk. We checked for ticks immediately but did not find one however the vet found the bleeder attached in a fold on the ear. Treatment, anti toxins and a day in the vets care saw him recover but he wasn’t 100% until two weeks later. We were lucky, although $1200 vet bill was not so good. Treatment can cost in excess of $3000 with an 80% chance of recovery. Respiratory issues are the biggest problem apparently. So I do worry about ticks, they are as deadly as snakes to dogs and cats. Dog insecticides can also kill cats – frontline is safe but you must apply the spot on every two weeks and it does not prevent the tick from attaching. More worryingly, we don’t go into the bush or long grass, ticks can fall off intermediary hosts including birds. Bottom line check your dog head to tail every day.

    • BobinOz October 22, 2012, 6:44 pm | Link

      Yes, ticks can be fatal to cats and dogs, and Frontline is a good deterrent but not 100% fool proof. We run a local pet care service here, and the other day I found a cat in trouble at a customer’s house. He was lying on the floor, gasping for breath and almost totally paralysed. I picked him up, he flopped down again.

      So I rushed him to the vets, the first thing they did was put him on a respirator. Three days later and after a $1200 bill (yes, exactly the same as yours) the cat survived and the owners were very happy, although a little poorer.

      And they are ridiculously difficult to find, they will often try to hide in little crevices like armpits (or is it leg pits?) or under the chins of their victims. There is nothing nice about ticks at all.

  • BobinOz November 10, 2009, 12:07 pm | Link

    Ireland gets ticks too……..

  • michael morrison November 10, 2009, 4:01 am | Link

    brilliant me and my girlfriend are moving after christmas

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