Offshore Living - Bugs and Bities



Ticks inhabit the Pittwater area and can cause problems for humans and animals.

Most tick bites are harmless, however Ixodes holocyclus (commonly known as the “Paralysis tick”) may make you sick in several ways:

  • A range of minor to major allergic reactions, even anaphylaxis.
  • The development of allergy to red meat, often anaphylaxis. About two new people with tick-induced red/mammalian meat allergy present at Royal North Shore Hospital every week and there are over 750 sufferers in northern Sydney alone.
  • Rare life threatening paralysis.


  • There are four stages; the egg, larvae (0.5mm), nymph (1.5mm) and adult (3.5mm).
  • Tick stages are seasonal, with larvae active during autumn, nymphs in winter, and adults in the spring.
  • The adult stage is the most dangerous, but any stage can lead to allergic reactions.
  • Bandicoots are the main carriers.


  • Ticks do not jump up from below or drop down from high trees – they “quest” by climbing no more than about 1.5 metres on vegetation (they dry out if they go too high) and sit, waving their front legs to latch onto passers-by.
  • As they climb your body, they will stop at tight clothing – hence concentrations of bites occur along underwear lines. If they do not meet any insecticide or tight barrier, they may climb to the neck and head.
  • It is best to kill them on the body and let them drop off or later brush them off. It is not helpful for non-experts to pull them off/out, because the trauma may cause more of their saliva to enter the bite and add to the health problems;

When Walking

  • Try to avoid peak ‘ticky’ times, especially after wet periods.
  • Wear light-coloured clothing to help spot ticks, and check yourself regularly.
  • Tuck pants into socks, and shirts into pants.
  • Apply repellents to the skin. Use those that contain DEET or Picaridin, and apply (and reapply) as per label directions. DEET is in products such as RID, Tropical RID, Tropical Aerogard or Bushmans. Picaridin is in products such as OFF.

At Home.

  • Ticks do not like dry conditions! Keep overhanging foliage and leaf litter to a minimum,
  • Apply insecticides to areas where ticks occur. Ensure that ticks are on the insecticide label.
  • Regularly treat pets to prevent ticks; many dogs die every year from tick paralysis

Getting Rid of them

  • After being in a ‘ticky’ area, remove clothing and place into a hot dryer for 20 minutes to kill any ticks that may still be present.
  • Ticks can be killed by spraying them with a spray that contains ether, which freezes the tick immediately (eg. WART OFF or Wartner). Ether is also an ingredient of Aerostart, the spray that displaces water and enables wet engines to start – but it is not an approved medical substance
  • For larval/nymph stage ticks you can apply Lyclear on the tick (an over-the-counter cream available from pharmacies)
  • Soak clothing in permethrin washes (available from outdoor stores). Follow label instructions for application and re-application

Removing A Tick (Tick induced mammalian meat allergy & tick allergy) (Tick fact sheets)
Ticks and tick-borne diseases protecting yourself-
Dept Health - Tick Bite prevention

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