The Life Cycle of the Tick from Eggs to Ambush

Ticks are pretty disgusting to look at, and even worse to touch, especially when they’ve just gorged themselves on a “blood meal.” (That phrase says it all.) But how these creepy-crawlers are born, live, and die is fascinating stuff, and it’s worth understanding, for the safety of our dogs, and ourselves.

Ticks go through four life stages:

Egg; six-legged larva; eight-legged nymph; and adult. After hatching from the eggs, ticks must eat blood at each stage in order to move on to the next one. It can take up to 3 years to complete a full lifecycle, and most will die because they can’t find a host for their next feeding.

Lifecycle of the Tick
Infographic Linda Kocur

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) ticks find their hosts by detecting animals´ breath and body odors, or by sensing body heat, moisture, and vibrations. Some tick species can even recognize a shadow! Ticks are able to identify well-used paths, where they rest on the tips of plants, in a position known as "questing.” There they lie in wait for an unsuspecting host to pass by. Ticks can't fly or jump, but this ambush tactic is very effective.

While questing, ticks hold onto leaves and grass by their third and fourth pair of legs. They hold the first pair of legs outstretched, waiting to climb on to the host. When a host brushes by that spot, the tick quickly climbs aboard.

Ticks carry a number of diseases, such as Lyme Disease and Ehrlichiosis, so preventing a tick from attaching in the first place is the best safety measure.

The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) released a 2015 Lyme Disease Forecast that predicted a higher than usual threat of Lyme disease in areas were the disease is currently widespread, in particular New England, the Upper Ohio River Valley, and the Pacific Northwest.

 

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