Welcome to the Tick Activity Project for England and Wales

Many of us who enjoy any sort of outdoor activity will be familiar with ticks. These small arthropods, which are related to spiders, live in vegetation and feed on the blood of birds and mammals, including humans. As it feeds, an infected tick can transmit pathogens through its saliva, some of these pathogens can cause disease in humans, which is the case with Lyme disease (Lyme borreliosis). In the UK the most common tick species which comes into contact with humans is the Sheep tick (Ixodes ricinus). This tick is the main vector of Lyme disease in Europe – a disease caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. When the infected tick feeds (not all ticks are infected, only a proportion), this bacteria is transferred from the tick to the animal or person on which it is feeding. In recent years, tick surveillance studies have suggested that Ixodes ricinus is expanding its distribution throughout England and Wales. Likewise, the numbers of reported Lyme disease cases have increased steadily in the past decade.
The Ixodes ricinus tick is very sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity and it is possible that a changing climate in the UK may may alter the distribution and abundance of this tick, as well as the influence the potential establishment of other non-native tick species.

The aim of this study is to conduct field surveys throughout England and Wales and in doing so:

  • Assess the seasonal activity of Ixodes ricinus in England and Wales
  • Identify changes in regional weather and microclimate variables which might impact on the tick’s lifecycle
  • Use climate based models to develop forecasting tools to predict tick bite and Lyme disease risk to the public
  • Raise public awareness on the risks of tick bites and tick-borne disease, specifically Lyme disease in the UK

This study is funded by the NIHR HPRU in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections at the University of Liverpool in partnership with Public Health England.