ISSN 2398-2993      

Ticks: overview



  • Ticks are invertebrate arthropods, belonging to the subclass Acari.
  • Ticks are obligate temporary parasites of vertebrates, including cattle.
  • There are 2 types of tick; hard-bodies and soft-bodies.
  • The tick lifecycle takes between 2-3 years to complete, depending on the tick species and climatic factors :
    • Egg -> 6 legged larvae -> nymph -> 8 legged adult.
    • Adult females can lay thousands of eggs in the environment, with high relative humidity’s increasing survival.
  • Some tick species can act as vectors for multiple pathogens via their blood feeding activities. Pathogens can be transmitted by horizontal transmission (trans-stadial) or vertical transmission (transovarial).
  • Once on the host, the tick actively searches for a favorable place to feed. It secretes a ‘cement’ like substance to help attach the tick to the skin, and inoculates the host with multiple pharmacologically active substances to help maintain blood flow whilst feeding.
  • Ticks often cluster together on the animal, typically around the ears, udder or below the tail. This can lead to open wounds which may attract flies, leading to myiasis, or are subject to secondary bacterial or fungal infections.
  • Tick control can be challenging as much of the lifecycle is spent in the environment, usually in damp vegetation:
    • It is not possible to treat the environment with acaricidal products.
    • Use of pasture-improving techniques (ground drainage, scrub clearance) can reduce tick habitats and therefore cattle exposure.
  • Ticks generally become active in early spring due to the increase in environmental temperatures.
  • There are no licensed treatments for ticks, although the topical and injectable macrocyclic lactones provide some protection when applied at regular intervals during the spring and summer months.

Hard-bodies ticks

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Soft-bodies ticks

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Further Reading


Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Vannier, Edouard G, Diuk-Wasser M, Mamoun C & Krause P (2015) Babesiosis. Infect Dis Clin North Am 29 (2), 357-370 PubMed.
  • Rao Z, Zaman M, Colwell D, Gilleard J & Iqbal J (2015) Acaricide Resistance in Cattle Ticks and Approaches to Its Management: The State of Play. Vet Parasitol 203 (1), 6-20 PubMed.
  • Estrada-Peña A & de la Fuente J (2014) The Ecology of Ticks and Epidemiology of Tick-Borne Viral Diseases. Antiviral Res 108, 104-128 PubMed.
  • Pfäffle, Miriam, Littwin N, Muders S & Petney T (2013) The Ecology of Tick-Borne Diseases. Int J Parasitol 43 (12), 1059-1077.
  • Kiss, Timea, Cadar D & Spînu M (2012) Tick Prevention at a Crossroad: New and Renewed Solutions. Vet Parasitol 187 (3), 357-366.
  • Anderson J & Magnarelli L (2008) Biology of Ticks. Infect Dis Clini North Am 22 (2), 195-215 PubMed.
  • Colebrook E & Wall R (2004) Ectoparasites of Livestock in Europe and the Mediterranean Region. Vet Parasitol 120 (4), 251-274 PubMed.
  • George J, Davey R & Pound R (2002) Introduced Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases: The Threat and Approaches to Eradication. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract 18 (3), 401-416 PubMed.
  • Loomis & Edmond C (1986) Ectoparasites of Cattle. Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract 2 (2), 299-321 PubMed.

Other Sources of Information

  • Jackson B, De Vos A & Jorgensen W (2008) Babesiosis of Cattle. In: Ticks: Biology, Disease and Control. Cambridge University Press, UK. pp 281–307.
  • Denise Bonilla.(2018) Status of Haemaphysalis longicornis in the United States. Department of Agriculture, USA. Website: (pdf download).

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