How do we keep ourselves safe from tick bites and tick borne diseases? We can start by learning about the life cycle of ticks in order to be aware of when we are most at risk of a bite. Knowledge is the first step in prevention, and with ticks and tick-borne diseases prevention is key.
The tick life cycle typically lasts two or three years and contains four stages - egg, larvae, nymph and adult. After they hatch, ticks need to feed during each of their life stages in order to grow into the next one. Most ticks 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 deep 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.
Our mission at AtlanTick is to provide you with valuable information and tools to help you and your loved ones avoid tick bites and their associated diseases.