Nature Blog: the wonders of the tick


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Ah! the traditional signs of the approach of Spring and Summer – the first Cuckoo, the first Blackthorn blossom, the first Swallow — and yesterday the first Tick of the year. In this part of Wales we are deep in the heart of Tick country but normally I associate the troublesome Tick with summer and early autumn, so it was with some surprise that I discovered that I had taken on board a little companion after a walk with Boots (my dog) across the salt marshes. I had just got home and felt a slight tickle on the back of my neck and upon investigation I found I was holding a real live twitching Tick! It had probably been picked up by Boots and then obviously been attracted to my mane of slightly greyish hair (no comments please) and transferred its attentions to me. Naturally my indefatigable fascination with all living things meant that I spent some time examining it through a powerful hand lens (much to my wife’s disgust) and I was able to ascertain that it was a second stage 8-legged nymph which means that quite amazingly it had been waiting somewhere in the grass, since probably last summer, for a suitable warm blooded host to come along. The life cycle of a typical hard bodied tick is so incredible that it almost beggars belief – from egg to adult can take three years during which time it will only feed (on blood) three times ,each time on a different host – it can survive for up to a year without taking in any sustenance at all. Because of this complicated and extremely tenuous existence, mortality is probably somewhere in the region of 99.9% so the female has to lay one hell of a lot of eggs to carry on the family line. After studying this particular Tick for a while I’m afraid my Jainism principles went out of the window and the mortality rate was maintained as Arthur, as I had christened him, went to meet his maker via the end of my thumb.