top cx logo
cx logo
Explorearrow down
search icon
arrow down

Mediterranean tick expands territory in south of France

The tick, known as hyalomma marginatum, is increasingly common in France researchers in Montpellier have found. It can transmit a virus that causes hemorrhagic fever, although few cases have been recorded in Western Europe so far. 

Currently the tick is present in departments along the south coast including the Pyrénées-Orientales, Aude, Hérault, Gard (Occitanie), Bouches-du-Rhône, and Var (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur). 

However, it has previously been found as far north as the department of Ardèche (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes).

Tick requires Mediterranean climate

The tick has been tracked in the south of France since 2015, by a research team from agricultural research centre Cirad (Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement). 

Although it has expanded its territory in France since then, Frédéric Stachurski, tick specialist at Cirad, expects its progress will be limited by weather conditions.

He told newspaper Le Monde: “It’s an invasive tick as a result of climate change. But it’s dependent on the Mediterranean climate. We don’t think it would be able to settle in a climate that is more humid.” 

The tick likes to live in scrubland and dry hills, which are common in the Mediterranean region.

As well as being found in France, it is common in Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, central Europe, and northwest Africa and can be identified by its eight red and yellow striped legs.

It is sometimes called the “tique géante (giant tick)” as it is twice the size of the most common tick in France, Ixodes Ricinus. Additionally, it increases in size as it consumes blood and can grow up to two centimetres large when fully fed. 

Read more: Dog owners in south of France warned of incurable disease

Read more: Will France see an insect invasion this summer?

Low risk of virus from tick bites in France

Although the ticks can spread a virus that causes "Crimean-Congo" hemorrhagic fever, cases of this are rare in western Europe. No cases have been recorded in France and only four have been recorded in Spain since 2016, one of which resulted in death. The risk is slightly higher in countries in the lower Mediterranean such as Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. 

Bites are most likely to occur between March and July, when the ticks are active. They can sense prey by smell or by vibrations in the ground, and are able to jump up to five metres in order to attach to a host. However, while the ticks can bite humans, they prefer to feed on horses, livestock, wild boar and deer.

After feeding, the ticks drop to the ground, where they reproduce. Larvae from the ticks are most likely to attach to small mammals - such as rabbits - between July and September. As they grow, they feed off their host for up to three weeks before detaching from them.

Tick bites are painless, as the tick releases a combination of anti-inflammatories, pain killers, and anticoagulants when it attaches to a host.

Related stories:

French man rushed to hospital after Black Widow bite

French scientists fight Asian hornet ‘in own language’

French honey production 'exceptional' in 2020 so far

Stay informed:
Sign up to our free weekly e-newsletter
Subscribe to access all our online articles and receive our printed monthly newspaper The Connexion at your home. News analysis, features and practical help for English-speakers in France

Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
featured helpguide
Healthcare in France*
Featured Help Guide
- Understand the French healthcare system, how you access it and how you are reimbursed - Useful if you are new to the French healthcare system or want a more in-depth understanding - Reader question and answer section Aimed at non-French nationals living here, the guide gives an overview of what you are (and are not) covered for. There is also information for second-home owners and regular visitors.
Get news, views and information from France