Ticks are arthropods and members of the arachnid family, related to scorpions and spiders. They are many different species and are widely distributed around the world, each preferring to feed on the blood of different animals. They thrive in countries with warm, humid climates because of the higher moisture content in the air which is good for their development. They can typically be found in woodlands, moorlands, rough pastures, forests and urban parks. They can also sometimes be found in gardens, especially those with shady shrubberies or deep vegetation and a strong local wildlife population.
They are very small, almost invisible to naked eye but once fed they grow considerably. The colour varies by species, sex and whether they have fed or not. Unfed they are a reddish brown or sometimes black. Once fed they can be pink, purple or a dark red. They have a typical life span of 2 years.
The most common tick species find their hosts using an ambush strategy. Positioned on a plant stem or leaf with their front legs outstretched, they wait for the host to come close enough to get on. They are not able to fly or jump so use their keen senses to identify a host. They sense body odours, CO2 from the breath, body heat, shadows and vibrations. Once attached they will feed on the host’s blood for several days, then drop off once gorged. They often go unnoticed due to anaesthetic properties secreted in their saliva.
They are a vector of a number of diseases, including lyme disease, Colorado tick fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, African tick bite fever, tularemia, tick-borne relapsing fever, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, tick paralysis, and tick-borne meningoencephalitis.