The Three-Host-Tick (Haemophysalis longicornis)
The ‘New Zealand Cattle Tick’ or ‘Bush Tick’, as an adult, is a red-brown, 8-legged tick visible with the naked eye from 3x2mm to around 9x7mm (when it's full of feed). Larval and nymph (juvenile) stages are much smaller (but still visible) with 6 legs and a dark to black colour. It is known as the three-host-tick as it transitions through three stages from larvae to nymph to adult by attaching to a host, engorging by sucking blood, then dropping back onto the ground and repeating through the stages. This feeding takes up to 7 days (where the tick continues to increase in size). Development and ‘moulting’ in the environment can take up to 40 days, so ticks on your animals can come in waves. This is the only tick we have a problem with in NZ. So we are very lucky.
The tick is most prevalent on cattle and deer, but horses, sheep, dogs, cats, rabbits and other wild animals can also be infested (but not as regularly). The ticks can be anywhere in the environment, but are mainly transported by rabbits, possums and rodents. Transported cattle and other livestock can also act as a vector. The tick hide in the soil and when ready, climb up the grass and attach to animals as they run/walk through the grass. In general, apart from the creepy-crawly factor, ticks are harmless and provide no risk to your animals. Risk comes only for very small animals with large untreated infestations (because they lose too much blood), to cattle that are transmitted Theileria orientalis and to deer on their velvet.
Treatment is very simple and lasts for an extended period, but is species dependent:
- Dogs and cats – oral and topical treatment are available; Nexguard is used as an extremely palatable tablet, and Frontline (spot-on) or Seresto collars are easy treatments. They are also combined for added benefit against fleas.
- Horses – Lice-n-Simple and Permoxin are whole body washes for treatment, but is also a timely relief from the summer heat.
- Cattle and Deer – Flumethrin pour-on products are effective easy to use.
So get out your tweezers and grab your favoured treatment to get rid of, and keep away, those nasty creepy-crawlies.