It's a Ticks Life
Prevention is key; spray yourself and always do your tick checks.
The tick life cycle typically lasts two or three years and contains four stages - egg, larvae, nymph and adult. The only stage during which ticks can’t transmit disease is during the egg stage. Ticks need to feed during each of their life stages in order to grow into the next one. They will feed three times in their life, typically on three different hosts, which is how they acquire and spread disease. Any pathogens carried by the first host can be ingested by the tick and then transferred to the next host, and so on.
Tick life stages often correspond with seasons, but varying stages of ticks can be found simultaneously.
Typically, adult ticks fertilize eggs in the fall and wait till spring to deposit them along the ground in dark, moist, protective areas, such as leaf litter. Eggs turn into larvae in the summer months, and begin the search for their first host body. After their first blood meal, larvae will drop off their host and moult into the nymph stage. In the fall, nymphs will tuck themselves safely into leaf litter again to remain dormant till the following spring. Nymphs reemerge the following spring seeking their next host. After a successful blood meal the nymph moults into the adult tick, emerging as such well into October and November. Before the cold of winter sets in the adult tick seeks out its last blood meal, then carries out egg fertilization, starting the cycle all over again.
Though ticks may become dormant in temperatures under 40F, or 4C, no season is off limits as a random warmer day can allow them to reemerge, even if briefly.
The blacklegged tick is the smallest of the three ticks and may be the most dangerous as they can carry up to 7 tick borne diseases that can vary from mild to severe depending on various factors. These little guys can be as tiny as a poppy seed and many people never even know they were bitten. It is easy for ticks to go unnoticed as they secrete small amounts of saliva with anesthetic properties and as a result can't feel that the tick has attached itself.
The Lone Star tick is the new tick in town. This is a very fascinating and disturbing tick, mainly because one bite can make you viciously allergic to meat, called the alpha-gal allergy. Alpha gal is a sugar found in red meat such as cow, pig, lamb, etc. We can eat the meat, digest and process it, but when it gets introduced and "inserted" into our blood stream, it is hypothesized that we automatically create an immune response to it. Our bodies then produce antibodies to this particular sugar so that when we eat red meat our body automatically reacts and responds by ridding the body of the imposter. There is still a lot to learn about the alpha-gal allergy as the link between the lone star tick and meat allergy was only recognized in 2007. To date we don't have a cure for this infliction except to avoid red meat.
The wood tick, AKA Dog Tick, is often found in wooded areas (hence the name) and can be found all across Canada. They are the largest of the three ticks listed and can be identified by their hard, wide, oval body with flattened top. The males have a speckled grey coloration on their backs. Females are generally larger than males, measuring about 5 mm long when not engorged (with blood), and 15 mm long and 10 mm wide when engorged. Males measure just 3.6 mm long when not engorged. The most known disease that the wood tick can pass along is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF). This is a bacterial disease that, if not treated early with the right antibiotic can rapidly progress to a life threatening illness. Some of the early signs are fever, headache, rash, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, muscle pain and lack of appetite. Not everybody will show these signs and may only present one or two making it difficult to recognize right away. Once you are diagnosed with RMSF your doctor will prescribe Doxycycline.