Ixodes holocyclus Click to enlarge image
Paralysis Tick, filled with blood Image: Stephen L. Doggett
© Stephen L. Doggett

Fast Facts

  • IUCN Conservation Status
  • Classification


These are mean suckers. The Australian Paralysis Tick, Ixodes holocyclus, is found in Eastern Australia and is a parasite to native mammals, livestock, pets and even people.


Flattened from top to bottom, overall oval, seed-shaped body. Larvae have 6 legs while nymphs and adults have 8 like the rest of their arachnid relatives.


They are found in a variety of habitats across the humid coastal regions of eastern Australia, particularly wet sclerophyll forests and temperate rainforest areas.


may be found all year round.

Feeding and diet

Bandicoots are common hosts as are many mammals, birds and sometimes reptiles. Domestic animals such as farm animals and pets like dogs are frequently infested. To find the hosts that are required for their growth and development, ticks wait on vegetation with their legs outstretched and waving slowly until they can make contact.

Life history cycle

Larvae or "seed/grass" ticks are tiny (0.5mm) and found mostly in autumn and winter. After 3 different host feedings they then moult to the nymph stage which are about 1mm. Adults are most common from spring to midsummer. Usually only females bite people and other mammals. The bite is usually not notable but may rarely lead to paralysis, allergic reactions and tick typhus.

Danger to humans

They penetrate and suck!

Paralysis Tick bites initially cause local itchiness and a hard lump at the site of the bite with other more serious symptoms presenting themselves over number of days whilst the tick engorges itself. These include flu like symptoms, rashes, an unsteady gait, weak limbs and partial face paralysis.

Other problems associated with Paralysis Tick bites are allergic reactions ranging from mild itching and swelling to potentially life threatening anaphylactic shock.

Children are the most susceptible to problems caused by ticks as they may not be able to communicate they have been bitten and so ticks can be feeding on them for a number of days by which time their symptoms are quite advanced.

If visiting a potential tick infested area it is advised that you wear light coloured clothing (so ticks are more visible), long sleeved tops and pants and ensure that you tuck trouser legs into socks. A repellent can be applied which contains DEET OR Picaridin.

If a tick bite is detected it should not touched but ideally covered with a moistened bit of bicarbonate of soda or sprayed with an insect repellent containing pyrethrin or a pyrethroid or anti-scabies cream may be applied. The tick should be sprayed (or dabbed if using the cream) at least twice with a one minute interval to ensure the tick is killed. It should then be left to drop off naturally over a 24 hour period.

Adult Paralysis Ticks can be removed manually (if there is no alternative) using tweezers to grip the head and pulling firmly but steadily. This may result in mouthparts being left however it still results in the death of the tick preventing further burrowing. The wound can be treated with antiseptic.