Guidance

Tick awareness and the Tick Surveillance Scheme

Information about Public Health England’s tick awareness resources and how to take part in the Tick Surveillance Scheme.

Tick awareness for the public

Public Health England (PHE) encourages everyone to ‘be tick aware’.

Watch PHE’s tick awareness video to find out all about ticks and their public health importance.

tick awareness video

Information in this video can also be found in our Public Health Matters blog on ‘Tips and tricks to stay safe from ticks’ and public health leaflets.

If you have been bitten by a tick please visit NHS.UK or the PHE 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

PHE’s ‘Be Tick Aware 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 PHE 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 awareness for schools

PHE have developed ‘Tricky Ticks’ lesson plans that can be delivered in schools. These lessons have been developed with teachers who have delivered them to key stage 1 and 2 pupils. Our online teaching resources can be found on the TES website.

Tick Surveillance Scheme

The Tick Surveillance Scheme (TSS), set up by PHE in 2005 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 PHE’s assessments of the public health impact of ticks. Tick samples sent to PHE 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 PHE 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 PHE your tick(s) for identification. Please fill in the recording form using the guidance document provided.

Please note that we can only include your record if the tick(s) is included for 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. 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.

Please post ticks as soon as possible to prevent deterioration, which makes identification difficult.

Testing ticks

PHE do not routinely test individual ticks for pathogens (such as the bacteria that cause Lyme borreliosis). 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. 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, and it does not exclude the possibility that another tick elsewhere on the body has been missed.

If you become unwell following a tick bite or develop a red and spreading circular rash at the bite site, you should talk to your GP who can advise you further. Your GP may then send a clinical sample to the PHE Lyme reference laboratory for Lyme borreliosis testing. More information on Lyme borreliosis symptoms, diagnosis and incidence, can be found on PHE’s Lyme disease pages or NHS.UK. If you still wish to send us the tick, this will allow us to record which species you have been bitten by. This helps PHE 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 PHE

Please carefully package ticks so that the package does not become damaged during transit. We accept both live and dead ticks for identification.

When posting ticks, please make sure that you:

  • use a small plastic container that is securely fastened with tape; alternatively, a screw-top plastic vial can be supplied on request - email tick@phe.gov.uk
  • 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

Send to:

Tick Surveillance Scheme

Public Health England
Porton Down

Wiltshire
Salisbury
SP4 0JG

PHE provide identification of ticks via email within 2 weeks of receipt (during exceptionally busy times, this may be longer).

Postage costs

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’.

Imported ticks

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 PHE 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 tick@phe.gov.uk.

The brown dog tick is non-native to the UK, but in recent years PHE 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.

PHE 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

Ticks: distribution of Ixodes ricinus in England, Scotland and Wales

This map shows the distribution of Ixodes ricinus in England, Scotland and Wales, based on:

These datasets use a 10km resolution. Each point on the map represents a location at which this tick species have been recorded. 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

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.

Published 2 April 2012
Last updated 23 October 2019 + show all updates
  1. Updated information on postage and testing ticks.

  2. Added information on tick-borne encephalitis.

  3. Updated guidance document with new Royal Mail postage costs.

  4. Updated resources link to TES website.

  5. Updated guidance and documents.

  6. Updated postage costs as of May 2016.

  7. First published.