Sheep tick (Ixodes ricinus)
The sheep tick (commonly referred to as "tick" only) belongs to the group of hard ticks and lives mainly on grass and in low bushes in mixed forests and wetlands.
These animals require blood meals for their development. When seeking such a meal, they cling to passing host species such as wild and domestic animals or humans, then begin after a while to suck blood.
The females are the primary bloodsuckers. They are 2 to 14 mm long depending on the stage of development and degree of satiety. Ticks are coloured yellowish brown, red-brown or grey-brown.
Tick bites result in swellings and pronounced itching. If the animal is improperly removed, mouth parts may remain in the skin and cause inflammations.
Ticks represent a major health threat as transmitters of the bacterial infection borreliosis and the viral infection SSME (spring-summer meningoencephalitis).
In tick-infested areas it is advisable to cover as much of the body as possible with clothing. After an outdoors walk, it also makes sense to search the skin for ticks and remove them as quickly as possible.
Tick bites should be observed carefully for changes around the bite and a physician should be consulted if such changes are observed. Before visiting SSME-infested areas, obtain medical advice as to whether a preventive vaccination is advisable.
Pigeon tick, Canterbury tick, fowl tick (Argas reflexus)
The pigeon tick is a soft tick. The body is flat, egg-shaped and brownish red in colour. the adult animal is 8 to 11 mm long.
These ticks have a long development cycle, can survive starvation periods lasting up to several years and may live for as long as 10 years. Their principle hosts are feral domestic pigeons, in whose nests in old buildings they often live. From there, they can enter attic flats, where they can under certain conditions become a bothersome nuisance to humans.
The main blood hosts of the pigeon tick are squabs, hens and ducks, which may be weakened by heavy infestations. The ticks are therefore undesirable pests in pigeon lofts and chicken coops.
When fowl hosts are not found in sufficient numbers, the ticks enter adjacent human habitations and bite humans. The bites cause severe itching and may result in purulent inflammation and wounds that do not heal well. Sensitive persons may even develop serious allergic reactions.
Attics should be sealed off to keep out pigeons. An infestation of pigeon ticks in old buildings is very hard to bring under control and should normally be handled by pest control professionals.