Farmers asked to help with tick map

Cattle, sheep and goat farmers have been asked by parasitologists at Stellenbosch University (SU) to help update a map on tick distribution and establish whether and where four types of disease-carrying ticks in particular are found in the Western and Northern Cape.

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The most recent complete record of the distribution of ticks in South Africa was published in 1978. Dr Sonia Matthee of the Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology at SU, said researchers were especially interested in the distribution of the Asian blue tick (Rhipicephalus microplus), the African blue tick (Rhipicephalus decoloratus), the bont-legged tick (Hyalomma species) and the bont tick (Amblyomma hebraeum) in South Africa.

“These species most commonly infest our cattle, and are associated with specific tick-borne diseases such as cattle fever, gallsickness and heartwater,” she said. The African blue tick, the bont tick and the bont-legged tick are indigenous to South Africa, but the Asian blue tick is an alien species that occurs country-wide, and was recently recorded for the first time in Namibia. The 1978 records show that it was present in the eastern regions of SA as far as Swellendam in the Southern Cape.

Stock farmers can help with the research by removing ticks from five stock units, killing them in ethanol or methylated spirits and sending the sampled ticks to Matthee at SU. She said a photograph was often not conclusive. “The eye of an expert is needed to identify the ticks under a microscope, because the little teeth are often the conclusive characteristic.” – Staff reporter

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Contact Matthee at [email protected] or 021 808 4777 for more details.