Tick-Borne Illness - Tick Life Cycle

Most ticks go through four life stages: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph, and adult. After hatching from the eggs, ticks must eat blood at every stage to survive. Ticks that require this many hosts can take up to 3 years to complete their full life cycle, and most will die because they don't find a host for their next feeding.

How ticks find their hosts
Ticks find their hosts by detecting animals´ breath and body odors, or by sensing body heat, moisture, and vibrations. Some species can even recognize a shadow. In addition, ticks pick a place to wait by identifying well-used paths. Then they wait for a host, resting on the tips of grasses and shrubs. Ticks can't fly or jump, but many tick species wait in a position known as "questing".

While questing, ticks hold onto leaves and grass by their third and fourth pair of legs. They hold the first pair of legs outstretched, waiting to climb on to the host. When a host brushes the spot where a tick is waiting, it quickly climbs aboard. Some ticks will attach quickly and others will wander, looking for places like the ear, or other areas where the skin is thinner.

Ticks can feed on mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Most ticks prefer to have a different host animal at each stage of their life, as shown below:

Video produced by: Martha's Vineyard Productions.
Tick life cycle insights provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Discover more at the CDC.

      Copyright © Martha's Vineyard Boards of Health, all rights reserved.
      Web mastered by Martha's Vineyard Productions