They may be small, but they’re prolific. The female paralysis tick lays up to 3,000 eggs. After hatching, the larvae climb onto nearby vegetation and look for their first hosts. Normally, this would be a bandicoot or possum, which become immune to the poison. Once they have engorged the requisite amount of blood, the larvae drop to the ground, moult and turn into nymphs. Each nymph will then attach itself to a second host, do the blood-engorging thing again, hit the deck, moult to become an adult tick and find yet another host. After getting her fill of blood – often more than 100 times her own weight – the female paralysis tick is ready to abandon her final host and lay her eggs…to start the whole cycle all over again.
The picture at the top of the page shows a well-sated adult female Ixodes holocyclus, the three below are earlier stages of feeding. They tend to be light blue to grey in colour, ranging in size from two or three millimetres to as large as 10 millimetres. But even the smallest can cause paralysis. If you don’t have a ruler handy, think of it this way: any tick a quarter the size of your little fingernail can be dangerous, even deadly. Because these ticks tend to attach themselves securely to the skin, they can be difficult to remove. When they are pulled out, they usually leave a noticeable crater in the animal’s skin which can last for several weeks.