Health protection – guidance

Tick surveillance scheme

Information about the collecting, recording, identification and surveillance of endemic and imported tick species.

The tick surveillance scheme (previously tick recording scheme or TRS), set up by Public Health England (PHE) in 2005 is the only scheme that records tick distributions on a national scale.

Tick samples sent to us are identified and provide us with valuable information on the distribution and abundance of the various species present across the UK, their seasonal activity and their host associations.

Ticks and their animal host play important roles in disease transmission cycles so it is important for us to understand these relationships.

The tick surveillance scheme (TSS) helps PHE to monitor how these may be changing and if they are, to investigate the reasons why this may be occurring. The scheme also allows us to detect the presence of species that are not normally resident in the UK. Data from the TSS informs the agency’s assessments of the public health impact of ticks.

All records are available via the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) gateway for research and public use.

The main aims of the scheme are to:

  • promote the surveillance of ticks in Great Britain
  • monitor tick distribution and seasonality on a nationwide scale
  • determine the diversity of ticks infesting humans and animals
  • detect exotic or unusual tick species

Taking part in the scheme

Individuals and groups are invited to assist in the development of tick distributions by sending in any ticks collected, along with details of:

  • date of collection
  • specific location (grid reference)
  • general location (nearest town or village)
  • host from which tick was collected (for example, human or dog)
  • contact details (for the person sending in the sample)

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

If more than 1 tick is collected from different hosts or locations please place these in separate containers. Ticks collected from the same host on the same day may be sent in 1 container.

To prevent deterioration of the ticks, place them in a fridge or cool, dark place and post as soon as possible.

Recording your data

The TSS relies upon members of the public, health practitioners, veterinary practitioners, wildlife groups and others to submit ticks to the scheme. Please use one of the following forms to record your data.

Use the recording form to send in ticks collected from:

  • humans
  • pets
  • wildlife

Tick surveillance scheme: record form (MS Word Document, 151KB)

Guidance for printing, including details about how we use your personal data.

Tick surveillance scheme: guidance (PDF, 171KB, 4 pages)

Wildlife ticks

Ticks and wildlife hosts can play important roles in disease transmission cycles so it is important for us to understand the relationships between ticks and their hosts. We are therefore encouraging submissions of ticks from wildlife charities, rescue centres and any other groups working with wildlife and who routinely remove ticks as part of their work.

If you come across ticks on dead animals, please do not touch the animal to remove the ticks. Instead, please visit the Garden Wildlife Health website.

This organisation is encouraging members of the public to report observations of sick or dead wildlife. They will be able to provide you with advice on what to do next.

Sending ticks to us

Please carefully package live ticks so that there is no danger of them escaping or posing any risk to mail handling staff if the package becomes damaged during transit.

When posting ticks, please make sure that you:

  • use a crush-proof, plastic container (eg, an old camera film case) that is securely fastened with tape; alternatively, a screw-top plastic vial can be supplied on request to the address below
  • post the container in a padded envelope with a visible return address
  • mark the package as ‘urgent - live creatures’
  • include a completed recording form

Send to:

Tick surveillance scheme

Public Health England
Porton Down

Wiltshire
Salisbury
SP4 0JG

PHE provide identification of specimens within 2 weeks of receipt (during exceptionally busy times, this may be longer). We will notify you of the identification results if you provide your email address.

Postage costs

Unfortunately, we are not able to cover the cost of postage.

We can provide you with plastic tubes and envelopes on request. Please email tick@phe.gov.uk or put a note on your recording form.

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 is a guide, correct in May 2016.

  • Large letter (max thickness 2.5cm, max 100g): our usual vials in small padded envelope will fit this category. 1st class = 96p, 2nd class = 75p

  • Small parcel (max thickness 16cm): larger containers, e.g. universal tubes used by vets, will need to go in these. 1st class = £3.35, 2nd class = £2.85

See Post Office price finder for confirmation.

‘Signed for’ and ‘Special delivery’ are considerably more expensive. It is not necessary to post specimens using these services.

If you are submitting many samples, you can group them in envelopes to save postage, providing that each sample is placed in a separate container with separate recording forms attached.

It should cost less than £1 to send a tick into the TSS, if you use the right shipping materials.

Testing ticks

PHE do not routinely test individual ticks for pathogens (such as the bacteria that cause Lyme borreliosis), as rates of infection in ticks varies seasonally and geographically, and the presence of a pathogen does not necessarily mean that transmission will have taken place.

The PHE Lyme reference laboratory does, however, routinely test clinical samples, and more information on Lyme borreliosis symptoms, diagnosis and incidence, can be found on PHE’s Lyme disease pages.

Imported ticks

Use the Tick surveillance scheme: record form (MS Word Document, 151KB) to send in ticks collected from a human or animal host that has recently returned from travelling abroad. Provide as many travel details as possible.

The revised pet travel scheme does not require a compulsory treatment of pets for ticks prior to return to the UK. This makes surveillance all the more important.

We want to monitor the importation of exotic ticks to better inform public and veterinary health messaging so encourage submissions of any ticks found on recently travelled animals.

One species of interest is the brown dog tick. This species is non-native to the UK, but in recent years PHE have reported an increase in the number of these ticks being imported into the country on travelling and 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. It is important to be aware of this because 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.

Brown dog ticks

Travelling with or importing dogs? Important information you need to know about ticks

This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology. Request an accessible format.

If you use assistive technology (eg a screen reader) and need a version of this document in a more accessible format, please email publications@phe.gov.uk. Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.

Please use this poster to encourage awareness of the risk of tick importation when travelling with or importing dogs.

PHE and Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) have published a leaflet for dog owners who suspect they have a tick infestation within their property, following the importation of or recent travel with a dog overseas.

Tick awareness

See the ‘Ticks and your health factsheet’ for advice on how to avoid tick bites.

Read Dr Jolyon Medlock’s Public Health Matters blog for tips and tricks to stay safe from ticks.

This video covers tick awareness in the UK.

Watch this video about tick awareness in the UK

How to safely remove ticks

  1. Use a pair of fine-tipped forceps or tweezers, or tick removal hooks (do not use fingers) to grip the head of the attached tick, as close to the point of attachment on the skin as possible.
  2. Gently apply pressure and pull steadily upwards, without twisting and taking care not to crush the tick.
  3. Place the tick(s) in a plastic container and ensure the lid is securely fastened.
  4. Wash hands and area around the bite site after tick removal.
  5. If you develop any symptoms of illness (rash, fever, flu-like symptoms) following tick removal, please seek advice from your GP.

See the Ticks and your health factsheet for an illustration.

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:

  • PHE national TRS and TSS data which dates from 2005 to 2015
  • Biological Records Centre (BRC) tick distribution data which dates from early 1890’s to 2001

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

More information on ticks

More information on the tick species present in the UK, distribution maps of key species, and tick bite prevention is available.