Almost all ticks are “host ticks,” meaning they live via a host that keeps them alive. These parasites have 4 stages of their life cycle.
- Egg: An adult, female tick lays her eggs in bunches on the ground, several thousand at a time. Usually this happens in the spring and in the summer, depending on the temperature and moisture around the egg, they hatch into larvae.
- Larvae (aka “seed ticks”): These larvae are tiny, about as small as the period at the end of this sentence. They find a starting host to attach themselves to for the first couple days, usually a bird or a rodent, and once they have had their fill, the larvae falls to the ground where it begins to molt into the next stage.
- Nymph: These 6-legged nymphs remain mostly inactive during the colder, winter months as they conserve energy and weather out the cold. During the spring, they become more active, finding a second host where they feed, storing up energy and food to move them to their last cycle of life.
- Adult: After falling from their second host and molting into an adult, a tick then finds another host to feed on. Once it is fully fed and nourished, it falls to the ground again to find a mate. Males then die once mating with a female and a female will live through winter, laying her eggs during the spring, after which she will die.
This is a typical life cycle for a deer tick, however the lengths of time and stages can differ for each species of tick, sometimes being much longer, as some ticks can last many years longer than a deer tick.