How do ticks breed?
Ticks are parasitic arachnids that have a 4 stage life cycle. Ticks like other arachnids have both sexes, male and female. Ticks are egg layers but do not lay them on the host.
What comes first?
What comes first the tick or the egg? For this discussion let’s start with the tick you find on your pet or yourself. The really big ones, about the size of a jelly bean, are the females that are mature and fully engorged with blood. Once they are big like this they are ready to drop off the host and lay their eggs.
Thousands’s of eggs!
After the female has dropped off she finds a good spot and starts to lay thousands of eggs! A large fully blood engorged female can lay up to 3,000 eggs and these eggs can start hatching in as little as two weeks.
Tiny tick larva hatch out of the thousands of eggs. These larva are not “maggot like” but resemble tiny ticks and are referred to as seed ticks. Seed ticks are a little different from the other stages in that they have 6 legs instead of 8 legs. They are about the size of a grain of pepper. Seed ticks hatch out hungry and will climb onto vegetation and wait for a host. Seed ticks usually will feed on rodents, birds and reptiles but will also bite people. After they feed they drop off and shed their skin as they metamorphoses into the next stage.
Nymph stage ticks
The third stage of a ticks development is called the nymph stage. Tick nymphs are about 2-3 times the size of the larva. Nymphs have 8 legs like adult ticks and usually seek larger hosts. This stage along with adult ticks are the most commonly found on your pets or yourself. The nymph and adult stage are the disease carriers. Nymphs after feeding a good blood meal drop off to shed their skin to enter the final stage.
The final stage is the adult stage. The adult stage is the only stage capable of reproducing. Adult ticks are about the size of a lentil before they begin feeding. Male ticks will swell a little while feeding but female ticks will swell to the size of a jelly bean. Adult ticks will often times group together on the host where they breed. Once fully engorged with blood the fat female falls off and lays eggs starting the whole cycle over again.