Preventing and removing ticks
The Northern Beaches has the best wildflowers you’ll see anywhere in Sydney, and I encourage you to go out and find them. Don’t let a tiny insect deter you from getting out in nature and doing a bit of bush bashing.
The paralysis tick is an inevitable part of the bush on the east coast of Australia. It lives in humid, moist areas and is more prevalent in the warmer months.
Our house backs onto a small bush reserve, and when we first moved in the garden was wild and unruly. I often got a tick just from hanging clothes on the line! So we got chooks – problem solved.
Preventing ticks on your bushwalk
Ticks are most active after rain and periods of high humidity, so take notice of the weather when going on a bushwalk and take precautions. Here are some simple measures you can take:
- Wear light-coloured clothing for easy tick detection
- Wear a hat, long-sleeved shirt and long pants tucked into socks.
- Apply an insect repellent containing DEET or Picardin to clothes and shoes
- After your walk change your clothes and check your body for ticks.
Treatment and removal
If you do happen to find a tick happily feasting on you, remove it, safely, as soon as possible. Don’t be tempted to scratch it. Tugging at the tick is just the signal it needs to start pumping toxins into your body.
The authorities have been to-ing and fro-ing over the past few years about the best way to remove a tick, but a method we’ve tried and tested for years, and has worked every time, is to apply Lyclear cream (a scabbies ointment bought over the counter at a chemist).
- Dab Lyclear cream onto the tick (this will kill the tick)
- Give the tick another application of Lyclear about a minute later.
- Leave the tick to fall off (this can take up to 24 hours) or remove it with fine-tipped tweezers.
- Follow up with a disinfectant such as Soov – an itch relief gel with antiseptic properties for insect stings and bites.
- If you have an infestation of ticks at the larval stage (often referred to as grass ticks), run a bath and add 1 cup of bi-carbonate of soda. Soak in it for half an hour.
Tick life cycle
A tick has four stages in its life cycle.
- Eggs are laid on leaf matter or mulch.
- Tiny 1mm larvae, or grass ticks, are hatched in autumn.
- In the winter they become nymphs, growing to about 2mm.
- In spring they are fully grown and between 4-5mm in size, but can balloon to more than double their size after a good feed.
Myths and legends
Ticks don’t fall out of trees, as many folk believe.
In fact, they are not very mobile and rely on animals (or humans) brushing past them to jump aboard for a feed.
They usually hang out on blades of grass, rarely climbing higher than 50cm – unless they have found a nice blood sucker. Then, they will walk the length of your body to find a nice juicy spot to feed on, ie armpits and earlobes are a bit of a favourite spot, so check there!
Bushwalking without fear of ticks
So go forth and enjoy the beautiful bush that the Northern Beaches has in such abundance.
Easy to medium bushwalking tracks can be found at