Ticks are invertebrates that fall under the suborder Ixodida and the subclass Acari. Ticks are parasites that comprise about 825 species. They are part of a large group of domestic parasites that attack human beings sometimes. The most popular tick is the hard tick called American dog tick, that feeds on the dog for several days. We have all seen dogs scratching themselves rigorously when they suffer from tick infestation. The life cycle of an Ixodidae insect lasts for about 2 years.
Now, let us look at their life cycle to get a better understanding.
Life Cycle of Ticks:
1) The Egg – Stage 1 –
After the adult female tick has acquired a proper blood meal, she mates with the adult male tick, leaves the host and searches for a suitable spot to lay her eggs. The eggs hatch and six-legged larvae emerge from the eggs.
2) The Larvae – Stage 2 –
Apart from missing legs, the larva tick looks like the adult tick in this stage. After hatching, the larva moves up the leaves of grass and waits for a suitable host to attach. The scent of the mammal enables the tick to identify it and attach itself to the host. Once attached to the host, the larvae feed and undergo several stages of moulting to transform into a nymph.
3) The Nymph – Stage 3 –
After finishing a good blood meal, the larvae detach and moult in order to develop 8 legs. The larvae moult for about 2 weeks and transform into nymph ticks. The nymph has developed 8 legs and once again searches for a suitable host to attach and feed. This process is the same as the larvae tick.
4) The Adult – Stage 4 –
Here the tick is sexually mature and is able to reproduce. In the case of hard ticks, the male and female adult ticks get sufficient blood meals before mating. While feeding, the female tick might take a longer time for feeding compared to male ticks. Male tick dies after mating and the female tick dies after laying the eggs. The eggs laid by the female tick are approximately 2000 to 18000 eggs. In the case of soft ticks, they acquire smaller blood meals and lay eggs several times.
Ticks mostly feed on mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds. Ticks do not live on one single host but change the host in different stages of their life cycle. The life cycle of a tick depends entirely on the host and the food source it gets from the host.
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Frequently Asked Questions on Tick Life Cycle
How do ticks attach to the host?
Ticks wait patiently for the host to arrive by hiding in between grass blades. Once the smell of butyric acid releases from mammals, the tick identifies that scent and attaches itself to the host.
How long do ticks stay attached to the host?
The time period for a tick to stay attached varies from species to species. It also depends on the tick’s immunity and life stage. If there is no tick inspection, then the tick can survive for about a week on the host.
Do ticks die after biting?
Male ticks die soon after mating. The female tick bites mostly, as they do not die after mating. Ticks survive on blood meals for development but can go on for a year without blood meals.
Where do ticks hide in human beings?
Ticks prefer moist and warm areas to reside. Therefore, ticks are mostly found in armpits, groin or scalp.