Facts about ticks

Ticks are small spider-like creatures that feed on the blood from birds, reptiles, and mammals. Most ticks go through four life stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. After hatching from the eggs, ticks must ingest a blood meal at every life stage before they can molt and move to the next stage in their life cycle. There are over 900 species of ticks worldwide. In the North Sea Region the Sheep Tick (Ixodes ricinus) is by far the most common species.

The sheep tick is adapted for a temperate climate and is common throughout Europe. Ticks are very unevenly distributed in the terrain. Some areas have a high abundance of ticks, while some areas may have none. The Sheep Tick is vulnerable to drought, hence they thrive in shady places with tall grass, shrubs and woodland. They are generally more ticks in deciduous than in coniferous forests. Ticks can also be found in gardens and urban parks.

Because the sheep tick feeds on several different species (rodents, birds, deer etc) they often contain different microbes that may cause infections and animals and humans. Around 25% of ticks in Southern Norway for example are infected with the Borrelia bacteria. In comparison around 1% of ticks are infected with the TBE-virus. Other microbes have also been discovered in ticks in the North Sea Region (anaplasma, neoehrlichia, babesia, rickettsia, tularemia, Borrelia miyamotoi). Even though a tick bite may cause disease, several large studies have shown that the risk of getting sick after a tick bite is actually very low, around 2%.