Tick Biology and Identification

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Phyllis McMahon
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Last updated: December 29, 2022
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For basic biology and habits of ticks, go to the Ticks Information page.  When your home, lawn or pets become infested with ticks you should read the Tick Elimination, Tick Control section.  This page serves as a site map for the different types of ticks (both Hard Ticks and Soft Ticks) and links to other issues such as products for pets, Lyme Disease, indoor pest control and outdoor pest control as concerning tick infestations.

Tick Biology  This article will give you the basics on the bug.
Ticks As Disease Carriers 
 Diseases carried by ticks are a concern of public health and individuals that can come into contact with ticks.
Tick Life Cycle 
 Knowing the life cycle or different stages of a tick during its development is knowledge that is critical to tick control inside homes or other buildings.  The habits of the immature tick differs from those of its adult counterparts.
Tick Elimination 
 There are certain methods to use as well as specific types of pest control products when facing tick problems indoors and outdoors.

Tick biology (description, life cycle, reproduction and habits) will help
you to understand ticks your are trying to eliminate.

Ticks have four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, nymph and adult.
Mating usually occurs while adult ticks are on the body of the host animal. The female tick then
drops to the ground and deposits her eggs. Adult female hard ticks feed only once and lay one
large batch of eggs, often containing as many as 10,000 or more. Tick larvae will hatch from the
eggs in anywhere from two weeks to several months.

The first immature stage (larvae, which are many times called seed ticks)
have only six legs. These larvae must find and attach themselves to a host in order to get a
blood meal. After obtaining this blood meal they usually drop to the ground, shed their skin
and emerge as 8-legged nymphs. Larvae of some ticks which feed only on one host remain on the
host to molt. Because of the difficulty of finding a suitable host, tick larvae
can withstand long periods without feeding.

Nymphs resemble the adult tick in that they have eight legs. They do not,
however, have a genital opening. Like the larva, the nymph must be able to live without feeding for long periods of time until it finds a suitable host. After finding a host and feeding, the nymph molts and becomes an adult tick. Hard ticks have only one nymphal instar while soft ticks may have several.
Adult ticks may require several days of feeding before they are able to
reproduce. Male hard ticks usually die soon after mating, and females die soon after laying their eggs. Adult soft ticks are generally longer-lived, and egg-laying is a periodic activity of the female.

Most ticks spend the bulk of their life on or near the ground, waiting for a
suitable host animal. Since they cannot run, hop, fly or move quickly, ticks must climb onto an appropriate object such as tall grass or weeds or up onto fences and siding of buildings. It is from these advantageous positions that they wait for a suitable host to pass by. When they detect vibrations and chemical cues such as host odors or exhaled carbon dioxide, ticks will fall from their perch or stretch out (holding on to their perch with only 2 or 4 of their rear legs) and hope to snag or attach onto a passing host (e.g., a mammal with a fur coat or pants and socks worn by humans.)

Ticks are also capable of detecting shadows cast by a passing host. These tick
behaviors are important in applying pesticide dusts or sprays labeled for
eliminating ticks and other arachnids.  Carefully inspect and treat for ticks
using these aspects of tick behavior, You must understand this aspect of
tick behavior and carefully inspect and treat all these crack and crevices
with a good insecticide dust to eliminate ticks and to prevent ticks.

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