Information about UK Health Security Agency's tick awareness resources and how to take part in the Tick Surveillance Scheme.
Tick awareness for the public
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) encourages everyone to ‘be tick aware’.
Watch our tick awareness video to find out all about ticks and their public health importance.
If you have been bitten by a tick please visit NHS.UK or the UKHSA Lyme disease page for more information. If you would like to send a tick for identification and help us record tick distribution on a national scale, see the Tick Surveillance Scheme section below.
Tick awareness toolkit for local authorities
UKHSA’s ‘Tick Awareness Toolkit’ aims to facilitate the implementation of locally-driven tick awareness initiatives. It contains information on ticks and Lyme disease risk and can be used by local authorities and other stakeholders for delivering consistent tick awareness messages at the local level. Raising awareness should increase knowledge of tick exposure and the potential health risks, as well as promote the adoption of preventative behaviours such as carrying out regular tick checks and prompt tick removal.
This toolkit has been developed by UKHSA and a number of local authorities already engaging in tick awareness activities. This toolkit and accompanying poster, leaflet and images can be used to support you in promoting tick awareness locally.
Tick Surveillance Scheme
The Tick Surveillance Scheme was set up in 2005 and is the only scheme that records tick distributions on a national scale. All records are available on the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) gateway for research and public use.
Data collected from the TSS informs UKHSA’s assessments of the public health impact of ticks. Tick samples sent to UKHSA provide valuable information on the distribution of tick species present across the UK, their seasonal activity and their host associations. This information helps to highlight which tick species are important to human and animal health and helps UKHSA to detect the presence of species that are not normally resident in the UK.
The main aims of the scheme are to:
- promote the surveillance of ticks in the UK
- monitor tick distribution and seasonality on a nationwide scale
- determine the diversity of ticks infesting humans and animals
- detect non-native (imported) or rare UK tick species
Taking part in the scheme
The TSS relies upon members of the public, health practitioners, veterinary practitioners, wildlife groups and others to submit ticks to the scheme. If you or a member of your family have been bitten by a tick, or you have removed a tick from an animal (pet or wildlife), you can contribute to the scheme by sending UKHSA your tick(s) for identification. Please fill in the recording form using guidance provided below and send this in the post with your tick(s).
Please note that we can only include your record if the tick(s) is included for identification.
Each tick must be accompanied by a recording form and must include the date and location of collection and the host from which the tick was removed. If you provide us with your email address, we will notify you of the results of the identification.
If ticks are collected from different hosts or locations, please place these in separate containers and fill out a recording form for each container posted. Ticks collected from the same host on the same day may be sent in one container. If you are submitting many records, you can group them in envelopes to save postage, providing that each sample is placed in a separate container with separate recording forms as specified above.
To prevent deterioration of the ticks, place them in a fridge or cool, dark place and post as soon as possible.
How will my information be stored/used in the future?
The data you provide on the TSS recording form will be kept confidential and anonymous in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation. We will store your name and contact details (section 3) in case we need to follow up with a specific query relating to your tick record. By submitting this form, you agree that your name, contact details (email address) will be held on a database so that you may be contacted. By completing sections 1 to 3, we understand that you are consenting only to receive feedback on the identification of your specimen, and you are under no obligation to take part in any future studies. Your contact information will not be made available to anyone else. Only the research team will have access to your information which will be stored on a password-protected computer and will be treated in accordance with the Data Protection Act. Signing the form is optional and any advice given will not be affected. By signing the form, you give your consent to be contacted by UKHSA for future research relating to ticks or tick-borne diseases.
Once your data has been analyzed, it may be used in publications in academic journals and reports. It may be presented to a variety of academic and professional audiences but you will not be identified. By submitting this form, you agree that the information and tick specimens may be anonymously used for research purposes. If you wish to have your data deleted for any reason, please contact email@example.com and, wherever possible, your request will be obliged.
It is important to remember that not all ticks are infected with pathogens, and even if they are and they bite you, removing them quickly and safely will reduce the chances of them transmitting pathogens. For more information on how to remove ticks safely, see our leaflet.
UKHSA does not routinely test ticks submitted through our TSS for pathogens (such as the bacteria that cause Lyme disease). Some sources of alternative health advice recommend testing ticks after removal for evidence of Borrelia bacteria and commercial companies are starting to offer tick-testing services. The results of such tests should not be used to inform diagnosis or treatment following a tick bite. A positive result does not mean that the infected tick will have passed on the bacteria – there are many factors that determine whether Lyme disease results from a bite from an infected tick. A negative result may not be technically valid and could give false assurance, as it does not exclude the possibility that another tick elsewhere on the body has been missed.
If a person becomes unwell following a tick bite or develops a red and spreading circular rash at the bite site, they should talk to a GP for further advice. A GP may then send a clinical sample to the UKHSA Lyme reference laboratory for Lyme disease testing. More information on Lyme disease symptoms, diagnosis and incidence, can be found on UKHSA’s Lyme disease pages or NHS.UK. If you still wish to send us the tick(s), this will allow us to record which species the person has been bitten by. This helps UKHSA understand where and when members of the public are exposed to ticks and helps to inform our key public health messages.
How to send your ticks to UKHSA
Please carefully package ticks so that the package does not become damaged during transit. We accept both live and dead ticks for identification. Live ticks must be sent first class.
When posting ticks, please make sure that you:
- use a small plastic container that is securely fastened; alternatively, a screw-top plastic vial can be supplied on request – email firstname.lastname@example.org
- post the container in a padded envelope with a visible return address
- mark the package as ‘urgent - live creatures’ (not necessary for dead ticks)
- include a completed recording form
Tick Surveillance Scheme
UKHSA aims to provide identification of ticks via email within 2 weeks of receipt (during exceptionally busy times, this may be longer).
It should cost approximately £1 to send a tick into the TSS when using the correct shipping materials and method.
Depending on how many ticks you are sending or the size of the tubes you are sending them in, the cost of postage may vary.
Below are some suggested shipping methods, using Royal Mail:
- large letter (maximum thickness 2.5cm, max 100g) - our usual vials in a small padded envelope will fit this category
- small parcel (maximum thickness 16cm) - larger containers, for example, universal tubes used by vets, will need to go in this category
See Post Office price finder for up-to-date postage costs.
It is not necessary to post specimens using ‘signed for’ or ‘special delivery’.
If you find a tick on yourself or your pet after travelling abroad, or after rescuing a pet from overseas, you can send it to UKHSA for identification. Please provide a detailed travel history, including dates travelled and location of travel on the recording form. Tick species acquired abroad can present different risks to those found in the UK, and some species, if imported, might be able to survive in the UK if they are introduced on a travelled or rehomed pet. If you have any concerns or queries about non-native ticks contact email@example.com
The brown dog tick is non-native to the UK, but in recent years UKHSA has recorded an increase in the number of these ticks being imported into the country on travelling or imported dogs. This species has an almost global distribution being commonly found in tropical and subtropical regions, but also temperate regions and the Mediterranean. Within these regions, this species is often found feeding on dogs but will also bite humans. In such areas, the brown dog tick can transmit both human and animal diseases such as Mediterranean spotted fever and canine babesiosis and ehrlichiosis. Unlike native UK tick species, the brown dog tick can survive and live exclusively within human homes and dog kennels. The ability of this species to survive indoors means that humans or dogs living in infested homes (or kennels) could be bitten, and in order to reduce tick bite risk and eliminate tick infestations, pest control measures need to be applied.
The poster below can be used to increase awareness of the potential risk of tick importation when travelling with or importing dogs. This poster can be downloaded and displayed in veterinary surgeries or animal shelters.
UKHSA and Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) have published a leaflet for dog owners who suspect they have a tick infestation in their property, after importing or travelling abroad with a dog.
Tick distribution maps
This map shows records of Ixodes ricinus in England, Scotland and Wales received via UKHSA’s Tick Surveillance Scheme.
Records are mapped at a 10km resolution. Each point on the map represents a 10km grid where at least one tick of this species has been reported. Areas with no data do not necessarily represent areas of tick absence, but simply that no records have been received for that location.
Tick borne encephalitis (TBE) is a viral infectious disease caused by the TBE virus (TBEV). For more information see Tick-borne encephalitis: epidemiology, diagnosis and prevention.
More information on ticks
Visit the UK Government Web Archive for more information on the tick species present in the UK, distribution maps of key species, and tick bite prevention.