Eaten Alive By Sydney
February 9, 2010 – 2:49 am | 5 Comments

When the prospect of a shift to Sydney is raised, the doomsayers often rise as well. And they’re nasty! The manner of one’s demise is always different, but the result is always the same – …

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Home » Settling In

Seriously Ticked Off

Submitted by on November 16, 2011 – 1:40 pmNo Comment
Seriously Ticked Off

I used to think bush ticks were an Australian myth, designed to further frighten newcomers already petrified of coming face to face with snakes, spiders and an array of scary sea creatures – like Tony Abbott in speedos.

Now I know differently, having survived my first encounter with a Paralysis tick – the genus that generally chows down on bandicoots, but has caused several cat and dog deaths in Sydney in recent weeks, including a canine only a few houses away from our home.

My tick encounter happened during a game of cricket on the front lawn – the scene of many late night bandicoot parties – when I retrieved an errant ball from the garden. Well, that’s where I think it happened given I was blithely unaware of the parasitic attachment at the time.

It was only when going to have a shave after a shower that same night that I saw the little sucker.

At first I thought I had cut myself. Then a sneaking suspicion took over. I called for my wife to examine the small dark red, almost black, lump. On first inspection she was horrified. She later revealed that she thought it was a cancerous growth, so when I told her I suspected it was a bush tick she was actually relieved – a misnomer rather than a melanoma.

A neighbour had told me to what to do in the event of a bush tick emergency, but I have subsequently found out that their advice was wrong. Dead wrong. So don’t do what we did. Never put meths on those blood suckers because it ticks them off. Infuriated, they release even more toxins.

With my visiting father watching on in a mixture of awe and amusement, my wife applied nail polish remover to the wee beast and stood by with tweezers. As its little legs started flailing furiously she grabbed the body as close to the skin as possible and started pulling. And pulling and pulling.

That tick did not want to come out. My skin was stretched out a good four centimetres from my body before the tick snapped free, mercifully intact. If your tweezer geezer or gal isn’t quite so successful and only pulls the body out, leaving the head embedded in flesh, get to your local doctor straight away to have the mouthpart removed or, at the very least, disinfect the area thoroughly.

Dad wanted to have a close look at the object of my pain, but I didn’t want it anywhere near me for fear it might jump from those tweezers and reattach.

I felt violated. That ugly wee sucker, carrying nasty bacteria, had been feeding on me. It was my very own Twilight Saga, but without the gorgeous vampires. Having lost true blood I urged my wife to flush ‘he who must not be named’ down the sink.

Thankfully, I experienced none of the symptoms that make up Bush Tick’s Greatest Hits, including headaches, rashes, muscle and joint pain, swollen glands and flu-like ailments. And I haven’t turned into a vampire, which is comforting.

While I avoided the need for antibiotics or a stake through the heart this time, I’d rather not tangle with bush ticks in the future and I’ll be taking steps to tick-proof the property as much as possible, embracing Sydney Newbie’s top tick tips:

  1. Wear a wide hat in bushy areas and be well covered up
  2. Wear light clothing in the bush. This type of clothing doesn’t camouflage you or repel them, it just makes it easier to spot the suckers if they hitch a ride and start targeting skin
  3. Mow your grass regularly and keep scrubs and trees trimmed to let sunlight into the damp mulchy areas where ticks breed
  4. Minimise mulch and leaf litter and always keep piles away from the chief entrances to the house
  5. Buy some Pyrethrum Spray and follow the instructions in spraying infested areas until under control
  6. Use insect repellant that contains DEET or Picaridin
  7. Check for ticks on your body and clothes
  8. Brush off clothes before heading inside and, if rife with larval or adult ticks, give them a 20 minute spin in the dryer to kill them
  9. If you have an infestation of larval stage ticks (often called grass ticks), take a 30 minute bath containing one cup of bicarbonate of soda
  10. If you find an adult tick chowing down, it is recommended that the tick be sprayed with an aerosol insect repellant containing pyrethrin, as its active agents stop the tick from injecting saliva. Spray for a second time after a minute and the tick should drop off naturally a day later.

Me? I won’t be waiting that long. I’ll spray with that aerosol, but the tweezers will be in operation within minutes. Or I’ll be seriously ticked off.

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