Ticks are tiny ectoparasites that feed on the blood of mammals. They occur in two basic forms, either hard-shell or soft-shell. The life cycle of a tick occurs in four stages. These stages are similar amongst all ticks, although the rate of reproduction may vary depending on species.

Ticks mature in four stages, moving from egg to larva and nymph to adult. When an egg first hatches as a larva, it requires a blood meal to mature. However, some species of larvae can live for months without maturing or finding a blood meal. All larvae are born with six legs.

After a larva finds a blood host, it feeds for about three days before dropping back to the ground. On the ground again, the larva will mature and eventually shed the outer layer of its skin (called molting) to become a nymph. Some species may require many molts and multiple hosts in order to mature.

After a larva feeds and molts, the next step of the tick life cycle begins. This is called the nymph stage. A nymph looks like a miniature tick and has eight legs instead of six. Again, a nymph must find a blood host and feed before it can mature. The length of time a nymph feeds can vary. After feeding, some nymphs become dormant for the season, some will drop back to the ground to make a final molt and others will complete the life cycle using the same host.

After the final molt, a nymph emerges as a mature adult and requires another blood meal before it can reproduce. Both male and female ticks typically take blood meals before mating, although females often become more engorged from the feeding than males do. This is the final stage of the tick life cycle.

A tick’s life span may depend on a number of factors, including the type of species. A tick’s life cycle may also impact life span. Many ticks can live as long as three to five months between each stage. Ticks that require multiple molts before reaching maturity can take up to three years to reach full adulthood.

Once a tick has reached maturity, its sole purpose is to reproduce. A male tick will die soon after mating. Some female ticks lay one large batch of eggs before dying, while others will lay a few smaller batches before reaching the end of their life span.

Understanding the life cycle of ticks can play a direct role in tick management. Treating ticks before they reach maturity and reproduce will prevent further spread. For help reducing the tick life span, call Terminix® and win the battle against these pests.