Health protection – guidance

Tick recording scheme

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

The tick recording scheme (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 scheme helps PHE to monitor how these may be changing and if they are, to investigate the reasons why this may be occurring. The TRS also allows us to detect the presence of species that are not normally resident in the UK. Data from the TRS 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 recording 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)

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.

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.

Read more information on how to safely remove ticks.

Tick awareness

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

Watch this video about tick awareness in the UK.

Watch thid video about tick awareness in the UK

Recording your data

The TRS 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.

General public

If you are sending in ticks collected from humans, pets, or other hosts, please use the:

Tick recording form (MS Word Document, 48.5KB)

Wildlife ticks

If you are sending in ticks collected from wild animals, please use the:

Wildlife recording form (MS Word Document, 41KB)

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.

Imported ticks

If you are sending in ticks collected from a human or animal host that has recently returned from travelling abroad, please use the:

Imported tick recording form (MS Word Document, 44.5KB)

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.

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

Please send to:

Tick recording 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.

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.

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.