The Life Cycle of a Tick


The Life Cycle of a Tick

Having knowledge of the life cycle of a tick can be helpful for recognizing them and preventing them from populating near your home. Ticks can in fact be active all year long, but during the wet spring and summer months, ticks thrive. As temperatures rise, so do the ticks and they are on the lookout for their next blood meal. Sadly, the ticks come out as soon as temperatures get enjoyable for us humans to get out after the long Chicagoland winter. If you are headed out for a hike, dog walk, or just spending an afternoon outdoors, being conscious of the ticks is important. Ticks, like mosquitos, have four specific cycles that they go through in their lifespan. 

Stage One: Egg Stage

Female ticks can lay thousands of eggs on the ground, which quickly hatch into larvae that are known as seed ticks.” At this stage of life, the small ticks have six legs instead of the eight they will have later on in life. They are about ⅛ of an inch in size. Once females have laid their eggs, they die. 

Stage Two: Larvae Stage

Once hatched, tick larvae remain close by to where they hatched and climb up on the grass or low vegetation around. They attach themselves to small animals that pass by, like mice, squirrels, rabbits, and even birds. Once they feed for 2 to 9 days on their hosts, they will drop to the ground, digest the blood, and then molt into the 8 legged ticks. Once this molting occurs, they are in the nymph stage. 

Stage Three: Nymph Stage

Just like stage two, the tick larval stage, this third stage depends on an active search for a blood meal. Once the nymphs have molted, they will look for a second host. Nymphs prefer small animal hosts, but if they can find humans and pets, they are great potential host substitutes. 

Stage Four: Adult Stage

The final stage of a tick’s life is the “adult stage.” Once a tick reaches this stage, a female attaches itself to a hose and can take up to an entire week to complete its feeding. Once the female has gotten enough food, it will drop to the ground and mate. Sometimes, the female will mate while on the actual host, but usually, she will drop and mate after feeding. Males die after mating, but the female survives and will live through winter to lay her eggs again before next spring. 


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