Hard and soft ticks differ in how they behave and find food.

Soft ticks (Argasidae)

Poultry tick female (Argas persicus female)

Poultry tick female
(argas persicus)

  • Generally live in animals' nests and burrows.
  • Females lay their eggs in their host's nest.
  • Larvae, nymphs and adults crawl through the nest to find hosts.
  • They usually feed at night, and they don't spend much time attached to a host.
  • Soft ticks often finish a meal in about the time it takes a flea to do the same task. Unlike a hard tick that can spend days consuming a host's blood.


Hard ticks (Ixodidae)

Paralysis Tick female (ixodes holocyclus)

Paralysis tick female
(ixodes holocyclus)

  • Find food through a behavior known as questing.
    • A questing tick positions itself on a blade of grass, a leaf or other vegetation.
    • It stretches its front clawed limbs outward and waits for hosts to pass by, this process is called "Questing".
    • Ticks can't jump or fly.
    • When a host brushes against a questing tick, the tick simply attaches and hangs on.
    • In many tick species, larvae quest at ground level.
    • Nymphs climb a little higher into vegetation to find slightly bigger hosts.
    • Adults climb highest of all in their attempt to find large animals to use as hosts. In Australia some ticks are known to climb upward on a tree to escape water puddles from heavy rains.


PARALYSIS TICKS (Ixodes holocyclus)

male paralysis tick (ixodes holocyclus)

Paralysis Tick male
Ixodes Holocyclus

Paralysis Tick female (ixodes holocyclus)

Paralysis Tick female
Ixodes Holocyclus

  • Paralysis ticks are native to Australia and are sometimes called grass ticks, wattle or scrub ticks
  • These ticks don't go far inland and can usually be found in a 20-kilometre wide band following the eastern coastline of Australia. They like to reside in areas of high rainfall, temperate rain forests such as bushy or scrubby areas, parks, in open paddocks, play grounds and beach areas.
  • Paralysis ticks can and do climb trees. Nymphs and adults can climb many meters to the very tops, but descend in windy or dry weather.
  • Larvae appear to remain closer to ground will quest from a blade of grass or plant while waiting for a passer by for a blood meal. They are also known to fall near and onto people sitting underneath low hanging branches.
  • The Paralysis ticks are known to be carried to humans by birds and livestock and domestic pets (especially cats).
  • Native animals may become immune to the paralyzing toxin because of their frequent exposure to tick infestation.
  • Their natural hosts are marsupials, favoring the bandicoots, they are also happy to feed on kangaroos, koalas, echidnas, kookaburras and other birds, lizards, possums and wallabies to name a few.
  • It has been recorded that the Paralysis tick can be carried by at least 34 species of mammals and seven species of birds.(Baker and Walker, 2014)
  • They are the only Australian tick known to inject a toxin causing paralysis that can be fatal in both pets and livestock.
  • Paralysis is caused by the female tick, never the male tick. The males do not attach and feed on their host. The mouthparts of the male Ixodes holocyclus are very short and the mouthparts of the female Ixodes holocyclus are very long. Perfect for feeding on her host.
  • These toxins also affect humans and may be the cause of serious long term Tick Borne disease.
  • In the first half of the 20th century at least 20 human deaths had been attributed to the paralysis tick. Eighty percent of the victims reported in NSW between 1904 and 1945 were children aged under four years. Many cases of 'infantile paralysis' (later known as poliomyelitis) may well have been misdiagnosed and actually been cases of tick paralysis.
  • Today in Australia the paralysis tick is reported to be causing a lyme like illness and other co infections in some humans.


THE BROWN DOG TICK (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)

brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)
brown dog tick
Rhipicephalus sanguineus

  • The brown dog tick also known as the kennel tick can be distinguished by its brown legs.
  • Adult brown dog ticks are flat and red-brown with tiny pits on their backs.
  • The Dog tick is found worldwide most commonly in warmer climates.
  • Heavy infestations occur in the Top End but especially in the wet season it is found in the tropical and sub-tropical parts of Australia.
  • It will prefer to feed on a wide variety of mammals such as the horse, cattle, sheep, and cats however R. sanguineust favors feeding on the dog.
  • The brown dog tick can transmit Babesia Canis a blood parasite which causes a tick fever.
  • The blood loss can cause anemia and the dog may become listless.
  • Tick numbers may increase if the dog is left untreated and a high level of infestation may lead to death in a dog.
  • The female remain attached at one spot and is a grayish colour as the female ticks feed, they become engorged and swell to a grey-blue or olive colour.
  • The male is much smaller and are shiny dark brown in colour and can be seen actively crawling on the coats of animals.They do not engorge like the females but may be found close to the females.
  • A bite from the brown tick can develop into an irritating skin condition; generally these ticks will not attach to people.


Rhipicephalus Australis (Boophilus Microplus)

Queensland Cattle Tick (Rhipicephalus Australis)
Queensland Cattle Tick
Rhipicephalus Australis
(Boophilus Microplus)

  • Also known as the Asian blue tick.
  • The Australian cattle tick is found in QLD,NT, WA, and Northern NSW.
  • They were introduced to Australia in 1829 with cattle from Indonesia.
  • They are the most serious external parasites of cattle in Australia.
  • It attaches to horses, sheep, deer, water buffalo, marsupials, goats, feral pigs, dogs, cats and not usually attach to humans.
  • Cattle ticks are known to transmit Babesia Argentina and Babesia Bigemina: NSW Department of Agriculture, Cattle tick Research station, Wollongbar.
  • Cattle tick are also known to transmit Anaplasma Marginale: J.A.Curnow, B.V.Sc. Veterinary Journal,Vol, 49, June, NSW Department of Agriculture, Cattle tick Research station, Wollongbar.
  • Cattle ticks cause loss of condition or even death from blood loss, but they can also transmit (Tick Fevers) which include B. Argentina , Babesia bigemina , (Babesiosis) and Anaplasmosis.
  • Tick fever is itself is potentially fatal to cattle.
  • Cattle ticks are ‘one-host ticks’ which means they complete their development from larvae to nymphs and then to adults on the same host within 21 days
  • Australia’s scientists lead the research into Tick Fever in cattle. The Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries Tick Fever Research CentreExternal has pioneered the development of live vaccines for the control of these diseases.
  • Larvae and young adults, especially males may attach to humans but the local itching and irritation usually lead to early detection and removal. There have also been cases recorded of female cattle ticks attaching to humans and then producing viable eggs.(Green,1971)


New Zealand cattle tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis)

Bush Tick (haemaphysalis longicornis)
Bush Tick
Haemaphysalis Longicornis

  • Also known as the scrub tick.
  • Introduced from northern Japan, it was first recognized in 1901 in north-eastern NSW.
  • Mainly the east coast of Australia and Queensland predominately effecting cattle, and horses. The tick lives on mammals and birds.
  • The cattle tick can transmit an animal disease called Theiloriosis ( bovine infectious anemia) to cattle, which can cause considerable blood loss and occasional death of calves, and is a concern to dairy farmers due to decreased milk production in cattle.
  • The seasonal feeding and reproductive cycle resembles that of other ticks. The tick can breed itself bisexually or by a process called parthenogenesis. These ticks can survive for close to a year, nymphs and adult females the longest, depending on temperature and humidity.
  • Like Ixodes these ticks do not have eyes


THE ORNATE KANGAROO TICK ( Amblyomma triguttatum)

ornate kangaroo tick
Ornate Kangaroo Tick
Amblyomma triguttatum

  • The ornate kangaroo tick (Amblyomma triguttatum) is native to Australia.
  • These ticks are dark reddish brown in colour, with silvery patches on their head regions and it looks very similar to the Lone star tick of America.
  • They vary greatly in size the females can be quite small at 0.4-0.5cm, but after they feed (become engorged) they can grow to 2.5cm long.
  • It's home is the drier inland areas of Australia, but may be carried by its hosts to the coastal regions from north western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland, and north-western New South Wales where there is uncleared scrub.
  • The Kangaroo tick is described as pesky, and its main hosts are kangaroos and wallabys, but can also be found on cattle, horses, sheep and dogs.
  • Ornate Kangaroo Ticks can induce local skin reactions and a delayed hypersensitivity reaction 24-48 hours after tick removal.
  • For sensitized people, subsequent bites may induce intense skin reactions and severe discomfort and will not cause severe symptoms like the paralysis tick.