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Waging war on ticks

Waging war on ticks

Al Gabriel investigates the rise in our tick population and the risks they carry

Tick questing on leaves

Globally, ticks are on the rise. They have been crawling around our planet for at least 100 million years, and in that time they have evolved into 850 species and built enough defences to put us on the losing end of a health battle. The British Isles, with our temperate climate, are at the heart of the global rise.

Tick numbers

Many have cited global warming as a primary factor in driving up tick numbers. Warm and humid weather does favour tick biology. The number of months in which they are active is becoming longer with the milder winters and wetter summers. Even tick eggs are hatching much earlier. Numerous studies have shown that ticks have extended their ranges in the northern hemisphere. Beyond climate, there are a number of other factors that are probably unique to our islands.

From the turn of the 20th century, land use in this country has evolved, namely intensive farming. In the British Isles, the biggest driver of ticks is the ever-increasing number of hosts. This is mainly due to livestock from intensive farming and deer due to post-war afforestation. Ixodes ricinus (sheep tick) is the most abundant and…

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