In order to prevent bites from ticks, the diseases they carry and to properly eradicate these pests, better understanding of a tick life cycle is helpful. Ticks undergo different stages of their life cycle: beginning from egg, larva, nymph and as an adult. As ticks go about these stages, they need food and blood is their food. They need blood as their energy source in order to grow and to lay eggs. The entire life cycle of ticks may take up to months or even years, depending on the species.
Egg and Larva Stages
The life of a tick starts as an egg. Female ticks breed when on the host and drops to the ground to lay eggs. The female tick lays thousands of eggs which will then hatch as the climate temperature and moisture increase, to become a larva. A tick on the larval stage is known as seed tick. The larva is about 1/8 of an inch in size and has six legs but already looks like the adults. These larva staged ticks need to feed in each of the stages order to grow into the next one. Ticks are not capable of jumping therefore they use grass and other forms of plants to raise themselves to a certain height where they can easily latch on to passing animals. They are able to find their first host for blood by being alerted of the increasing carbon dioxide levels released by warm blooded animals. This is technically called “questing”. The seed tick’s first hosts are usually small lizards or small mammals like small rodents or birds. After feeding for several days, they drop to the ground in order to digest their meal and grow. It will then undergo the molting process where they shed skin and become a nymph during late summer.
The tick nymph also looks like the adult tick but a bit smaller and has eight legs as well. A nymph again has to find the next host to feed and grow into the next stage of the tick life cycle. They prefer larger hosts this time, such as possums or raccoons. Nymphs are not active during the cold season of winter, and so they will resume feeding during spring. After feeding, it again drops to the ground to resume its growth and development. The nymph will then molt into the final stage of becoming an adult over the months of summer season. Soft tick life cycle may take up to several years as they undergo several nymph stages.
Adult ticks will again look for a bigger host such as dogs or deer to feed, breed and reproduce. In the case of hard ticks, the female feeds for more than 24 hours before mating, so does the male tick. After mating, the male tick dies, while the female tick dies after laying thousands of eggs. Adult soft ticks however feed several small meals and lay eggs several times. They are also known to survive a long time without having a blood meal.