Avalon and surrounding suburbs are almost paradise, if only we could escape those darn ticks! It seems as though every season is tick season and they just keep getting worse.
While it may be tempting to go to town with the insecticide, this is not good for your garden or the surrounding environment.
The reality is we can never live tick free so it is a matter of keeping your distance and learning the tactics to live with them and prevent being bitten.
Why the Northern Beaches are a haven for ticks
We love the Peninsula – and so do the ticks.
This is because of all that lush bush land we are surrounded by. Ticks prefer damp areas and like humid conditions so the Northern Beaches are ideal for them to nestle in and get down to doing what they do best; breeding.
While it may be hard to believe, people are not the food source of choice for ticks. They prefer the native animals like bandicoots, which live up and down Australia’s eastern seaboard. However, if they come into contact with a human or a domestic animal they quickly adjust their tastes!
The risks of tick bites
Ticks seem to come in different sizes but this is in fact due to their maturity. Tick larvae are minute and hard to spot, ‘nymphs’ are the in-between stage and full-sized adults are the big ugly ones with the swollen backsides. After a feed, these ticks can be up to 1cm in size – yuck.
Spring and summer are the worst time for tick bites as this is when these insects tend to be entering adulthood and thriving due to the high humidity.
The risk posed by a bite can vary. For most of us, if the tick is removed quickly, there are no side effects other than some redness, swelling and an itch that lasts for a few days. However, in some cases a bite can result in more severe reactions including severe swelling, paralysis and anaphylactic shock.
There is also the risk of developing MMA, an allergy to red meat and red meat by-products. This condition has been linked to tick bites and lingers long after the bite has healed.
If you have a tick bite and notice a rash, headache, fever, flu-like symptoms, weakness, dizziness or breathing difficulties, head straight for medical help.
For pets, tick bites can also have terrible consequences. The toxin a tick injects into their bloodstream can kick off a chain reaction which leads to paralysis. If a tick is removed quickly the animal will escape without side effects, however often the first sign of symptoms can mean it is too late, especially for a small dog or cat. So check your pet regularly.
Tick proofing your home and garden
Ticks do not come at us from all angles. Instead, they tend to crawl up stems of grass and wait till something brushes past. According to the Department of Health, they rarely climb higher than 50 centimetres above their habitat, so its unlikely they will drop out of trees to bite us.
To reduce the likelihood of coming into contact with ticks in your garden, take the following measures:
- Keep your lawn short
- Get rid of weeds
- Prune low vegetation to reduce humdity
- Remove dead leaves
- Keep pet kennels clean and tidy
You can also consider planting some of the following, which act as natural tick deterrents:
- Pyrethrum (type of chrysanthemum)
Tick proofing yourself and your pets
When it comes to your pets, a tick prevention treatment like a chewable tablet can ward off tick paralysis. The chemicals in these act to kill the tick once it latches on.
For a natural alternative check out the ‘Pet Protector’ disc sold at Patty Walcott’s Healthy Pets Naturally in Mona Vale.
Finding a tick early can make the difference between a simple bite and an emergency situation, so cut your pet’s hair short and check them thoroughly before bed each night.
To reduce the risk of being bitten yourself, wear a long sleeve shirt and tuck it in when you are in grassy or bushy outdoor areas. Put on protective footwear and if possible avoid brushing up against vegetation. Insect repellent can also encourage the local ticks to stay away. If you have been in the garden or bush, check yourself over, paying special areas to spots like armpits and your hairline, where they like to set up shop.
Unfortunately you can never completely outwit the ticks. However, if you are vigilant and know what to do you can continue to enjoy the Peninsula and its beautiful bush land.