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The Tick Life Cycle

From Birth Til Death

By James Donatelli. January 01, 2011 | See Comments

The Tick Life Cycle

Learn about the tick life cycle to deal with them better with these few helpful tips.

Ticks are nasty parasites that love to subsist off your pet's blood. Learning about these pests will help you prevent them (and know why you'll want to).

The Cycle of Tick Life

Hard ticks are considered to have 3 life stages, as only the larval, nymph and adult stages are growth stages. The majority of hard ticks require 3 blood meals to complete the 3 stages of development. Unlike fleas, ticks can start feeding right after they’ve hatched. The number of eggs in a given batch, the time spent feeding and the duration of each stage in a tick’s life cycle depend on the species of tick in question, as well as environmental factors such as temperature and humidity. Due to the number of diverse tick species inhabiting widespread regions with changing environmental conditions, estimates for these numbers vary.

Lonely Larva

Females prefer to lay their eggs in secluded places if possible. If their host is outdoors they might lay their eggs in thick leaf matter or grass, preferably with several inches of vertical cover. In your home, they might choose your couches or carpeting. The number of eggs she lays depends on several factors, such as how large she is to begin with and how much blood she has consumed. These eggs give rise to six-legged larvae. Under a microscope, they look like adult ticks that are missing a pair of legs. The smaller larvae start off on the ground, and usually find a smaller host to acquire blood, which enables them to molt.

Real Life Wood Nymphs

After consuming their first blood meal, the larvae drop off the host and molt into the nymph stage. The amount of time spent in each life stage is determined by the species of tick being considered, the temperature and humidity, and the availability of food. While they remain smaller than the fully developed adults, nymphs now have the full set of eight legs. Much like the previous stage, the nymphs will quest to secure a suitable host. They’ll typically spend several days feeding, so as to become capable of molting for a second time. This final molting marks the onset of adulthood, the final stage of development.

Adult Education

The main objective of an adult tick is to mate, but they have a bloodlust as well. Adult female hard ticks won’t mate on an empty stomach—they usually feed for at least 24 hours before mating, increasing in size and weight at exponential rates. Adult males will usually take what they can get, but seem to prefer mating after feeding as well. The female ticks will be much larger than the male ticks at the time of mating. Usually, both males and females die after mating. However, in most species of hard ticks, females will lay a batch of thousands of eggs before dying.

While adult fleas die after mating, you shouldn’t count on them dying out naturally. Ticks search for blood in every life stage, are capable of exorbitant population growth and are notorious for their ability to remain dormant for extended periods of time.

More Flea and Tick Control Advice

Flea and Tick Medications: Comparison Chart
How to Remove a Tick
25 Startling Flea and Tick Facts

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