Tick Life Cycles

You probably have a clear idea of what happens to a person or an animal if it doesn’t get food — it starves to death. Ticks can also starve to death, but often the process takes months or even years. However, without food, ticks can’t do much. Ticks are a clear illustration of how food works as an energy source. Ticks need energy from blood in order to grow, develop and lay eggs. Without blood, ticks can’t do any of this.

A tick begins its life as an egg. When the egg hatches, a six-legged larva emerges. Aside from its missing set of legs, the larva looks a lot like an adult tick. Its first host is usually a small mammal or a lizard, and it has to find a host in order to grow. After feeding, the larva drops to the ground to digest its food and begin to grow. After one to three weeks, the larva molts and becomes a nymph.

Tick Life Cycle Graphic

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How do Ticks Mate?

Like most animals, the goal is to reproduce and keep the species alive. Ticks are no different. When ticks mate, the smaller male tick attaches itself to the underside of the much larger female and inserts its mouthpiece into an opening on the female where it deposits its sperm.

 
Deer Ticks Mating
 

Adult Female Blacklegged Deer Tick Laying EggsMales mate with females while the females are feeding on the host. Blood feeding is required by males for their sperm to mature, but they do not engorge as much as females and immature stages do. Males take small quantities of blood as they wait for females to attach nearby where they are able to detect them.

When a female is detected, males then detach and mount the engorging female to mate. Female ticks remain receptive following mating, so males normally remain on the engorged female and guard her until she detaches from the host following engorgement. After engorgement and mating, females drop to the ground to lay eggs (Figure 12). After an egg maturation period on the ground of about five to 20 days, the female lays a single large batch of 2,000 to 8,000 eggs, after which she dies.

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