Bayer’s Wendell Arnett offers advice on the best approach for treating and preventing tick infestations.
Ticks are parasites that feed on animal and human blood. They transmit a variety of infectious organisms – viral, bacterial and fungal pathogens – in fact, more than any other group of blood-sucking arthropods. Ticks are second only to mosquitoes in terms of their public health and veterinary importance.
Of the 800 or so species of ticks around the world, 70 are found in Australia, of which 16 species are reported to feed on humans. There are two major groups of ticks: hard ticks and soft ticks. Both have their heads and bodies fused together. Hard ticks (family: Ixodidae) have a hard, flat body. The soft ticks (family: Argasidae) have a wrinkled, leathery appearance. Only a few species of this type are found in Australia.
The most important tick in Australia is the paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) with over 95% of tick bites in eastern Australia being caused by this species. The bite of a paralysis tick causes discomfort and illness in many domestic animals, particularly dogs and cats, sometimes causing death. Ticks are especially common in moist, humid areas with lots of wildlife offering the chance of a blood meal. Areas of bushland and grasses are tick hotspots.
The life cycle of a paralysis tick varies and can be very protracted. There are four distinct development stages in this species – egg, larva, nymph and adult – much the same as for other tick species. A tick needs to obtain a blood meal to enable it to pass from one stage to another, and the adult female must have a blood meal to acquire the protein needed to produce eggs. To obtain this blood they crawl up on grass or twigs and grab onto passing animals or humans, attaching themselves to the soft skin. They inject an anticoagulant substance to stop the blood clotting and their saliva is considered venomous. The adult male does not feed on blood and can be distinguished from the female by the large shield or plate that covers its entire upper body surface.
Symptoms of tick paralysis include rash, headaches, fever, flu-like symptoms, sore glands, walking unsteadily, intolerance of bright light and weak limbs. Similarly, symptoms of an allergic reaction to a tick bite can also include swelling of the throat, difficulty breathing and collapsing.
Shane Konzen from Affordable Pest Control in Sydney (main picture, above) is often called out for tick treatments to service residential homeowners. “Living and working on the NSW south coast, we have a high population of ticks,” explained Mr Konzen. “At Affordable Pest Control, tick treatments are carried out multiple times per month, as we reside in a heavy bushland area.
“Tick treatments are usually requested after homeowners find them in their garden, on pets or on their person. Treatments are also undertaken as a preventative measure for pet safety on a regular basis during tick season, which is March to mid-May and from mid-August to November.”
Mr Konzen offers tick treatments as a standalone service, as this is often requested by his customers. However an add-on treatment for general pest services is usually offered at the same time.
“With all general pest control services we offer, they last approximately six months, however it’s difficult to give a long service free period with ticks as they can be found in most of our local bushland and trails. Ticks are easily transported on pets and humans, therefore spreading to other areas that may or may not have been treated prior,” he said.
The team at Affordable Pest Control have traditionally used a bifenthrin insecticide for tick treatments, but recently decided to give Suspend Flexx a go.
“We are always looking to improve the service we provide with our treatment services. Which is why we are always willing to try new products as they are developed and released to the market,” explained Mr Konzen.
Suspend Flexx Insecticide with Partix formulation technology contains deltamethrin. Scientifically proven to maximise the availability of the active ingredient, the result is enhanced efficacy and residual performance.
“Mixed at the standard rate of 5 ml/L for ticks it works a treat. The results with Suspend Flexx are phenomenal,” said Mr Konzen. “At Affordable Pest Control, we have permanently changed to using Suspend Flexx for tick treatments as the quality, effectiveness and efficiency is superior to other products we have used over the past 26 years that we have been operating.”
Of course, to increase the effectiveness of a treatment, homeowners can do their bit to reduce tick populations. Garden foliage should be trimmed back away from verandas, paths, clotheslines and other frequently used areas. Dense ground covers should be reduced and large quantities of leaf mulch or other organic matter avoided. When working in the garden, homeowners can apply an insect repellent as well as wearing protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, hat and boots.
Taking these physical measures in addition to a chemical treatment is the most effective way to keep these blood-sucking arthropods at bay.
Wendell Arnett, Territory Business Development Manager (PPM) – NSW/ACT, Bayer