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A tick the size of a fist in the armpit

November 16, 2012

The many-lineated sun-skinks (Mabuya multifasciata) are common residents at Dokmai Garden. In the beginning they were afraid of us, but now they trust us so much you almost step on them. Yesterday a specimen walked in to our bar. While taking pictures, we realized it was heavily infested by large ticks.

Four large and two small ticks parasitized this poor lizard. We caught it with a butterfly net and then we managed to remove and kill the ticks.

This is the same individual five minutes after the swift surgery. We released him in the Dokmai Garden compost where other skinks hang out, attracted by moisture and a bounty of food. I could almost see him smile.

This skink has a very hard skin, difficult to penetrate even for many snakes, but apparently not for ticks. I have only had one tick ever attached to me here at Dokmai Garden, so this skink had bad luck. Skinks are predators so they keep pests at low numbers and are a natural part of a monsoon garden. Guineafowl are some of the best tick predators in a garden .

Text & Photo: Eric Danell

Surgeon: Zak Buttel

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Barbara Lutz permalink
    November 16, 2012 7:33 AM

    Amazing – I am familiar with skinks and ticks, but never thought of them being in such a situation!!! How wonderful that you could help the poor skink. Thank you for sharing.


  2. November 18, 2012 3:16 AM

    Very interesting to see a lizard with ticks on it. Lizards eat insects. I wonder what type of ticks those are. This is indeed curios to me, as a pest control guy. And I would have thought that the cold blooded creatures wouldn’t be as pleasing as a warm meal. But I guess a lizards still has iron rich blood. Thanks for sharing. I’ve leaned something new today.

    • November 19, 2012 12:25 AM

      I think you are right – it is all about the nutrients, not the temperature. However, afternoon temperatures now during the cool season is still 32°C, quite OK.

      Cheers, Eric

  3. September 25, 2013 3:22 PM

    There were no scientific reports of ticks on amphibians or reptiles in Thailand. Your website provides a very good information and help students who interested in tick research that include myself. I hope that if you could find ticks on amphibians or reptiles please keep collected ticks in alcohol for further identify what tick species is and to see if they could carry some tick-borne pathogens.
    Thanks for your information and kindness,

    Chalao Sumrandee
    Mobile phone. 081-4244195.

    • September 27, 2013 3:29 AM

      Dear Khun Chalao,
      Since this report I have seen more skinks with ticks, and also ticks attacking silver pheasant (gai faa). At present Ketsanee and I are in Sweden, but if you are scientifically interested in collecting such ticks, contact us by e-mail (info at about a suitable day for an excursion and then we explain to the gardeners that they should expect you. We need about a week to plan for this since we are very busy here and do not check the mail regularly. The gardeners are instructed not to let anyone inside. The skinks with ticks are usually found around the bar, but there are many skinks by the compost and behind the gardeners house. I have never seen ticks on geckos, in spite of their softer skin.

      Another interesting observation is a mosquito attacking a cicada and a discussion on overlooked human disease reservoirs:

      Good luck!


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