tick on a finger

Understanding the Tick Life Cycle to Prevent Disease Transmission

With over 900 species of ticks worldwide, a key factor in preventing tick-borne illness for yourself, your family, and your pets is gaining an understanding of the tick life cycle. Exposure to ticks can occur year-round, but with warmer weather on the horizon, we’re entering peak tick activity season.

Knowing where and how ticks live can reduce your exposure to ticks and the illnesses they’re able to transmit. While only a few of the many tick species are known to bite and transmit diseases, a multitude of environmental and human factors are leading to tick population explosions and an uptick in cases of patients contracting diseases. 

This is the case for Babesiosis, as the infection is not only more common than Lyme disease but also more severe. With reported cases rising across eight states in the Northeast, Babesiosis is now newly endemic in three additional states. The increase in cases coincides with the overall rise in tick populations. 

Research is further illustrating the connection between rising tick populations and factors such as expanding deer populations, humans moving to more forested areas, and rising global temperatures resulting in longer summers and shorter winters.

At Mosquito Authority, we don’t just handle mosquitoes; we’re known for our tick control services too! We’re ready to help you protect your property from infestations during tick season and year-round so you can get back to enjoying your yard.

The Life Cycle of a Tick

Ticks live in woody and grassy areas, making backyards a prime habitat for these parasitic arachnids. Attaching to hosts for a few minutes to days at a time, ticks are dangerous and should be removed within 36 hours to reduce the transmission of infection. 

Although no one really wants to think about it, ticks have a fascinating life cycle that consists of four life stages: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph, and adult. While the life cycle of a tick can vary for some species, it’s very similar for most. 

EGG

Adult female ticks lay thousands of eggs in the spring after feeding on a host, targeting areas where deer and other potential hosts frequently roam in order to provide offspring with their first blood meal. 

LARVA

Once eggs hatch into larvae, they’ll be hungry and ready for a host to feed upon. At the larvae stage, ticks feed on smaller animals like rodents, who typically carry disease-causing pathogens. If the host is infected, then the tick larvae will transmit pathogens when they feed on their next host. 

NYMPH

After overwintering in leaves or on a host, larvae become nymphs and begin looking for their next blood meal. The nymphs will target larger hosts like deer, raccoons, and humans through a practice called “questing”, where they crawl up greenery and wait with their front legs extended outward for a host to pass by. If nymphs become infected as larvae, they can transmit those pathogens to hosts, in addition to picking up other dangerous bacteria from larger hosts, which they can then transmit as adults.

ADULT

When nymphs have a blood meal, they begin their transition into adults. Female ticks will seek another host at this time before mating with males and laying thousands of eggs during the spring. 

Ticks latch on to and feed on hosts to survive, whether their host is a mammal, reptile, bird, or amphibian, and must take a blood meal during each life stage in order to move on to the next. Depending on both the species of tick and their life stage, a full life cycle can take up to three years to complete. Most ticks will die if they don’t find a host for their next feeding, with some preferring to feed on the same host during all life stages, while others need different hosts at each life stage.

As with other carriers, when ticks feed on an infected host, they ingest the pathogens in the host’s blood, and when they feed on a new host, they transmit the infection to their new food source. 

Ticks use breath and body odors, body heat, moisture, vibrations, and in some cases, shadows, to find their next host. These clever pests can identify well-used paths and wait for their hosts to come to them. While ticks can’t fly or jump, they can climb quickly. Some tick species attach quickly, while others search for areas where the skin is thinner. 

Why Tick Control Services Are So Important

When bitten by a tick, the host is exposed to a wide range of diseases, including neurotoxins, allergens, bacteria, parasites, and viruses. Tick-borne illnesses range from mild to life-threatening and are becoming a growing health problem. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness, with approximately 476,000 Americans diagnosed and treated for the disease each year. 

Ticks spread disease by transmitting disease-causing pathogens from one host to the next during the process of feeding. When a tick finds a feeding spot, it cuts the skin’s surface before inserting a feeding tube with barbs to help keep it in place. Additionally, many tick species secrete a sticky substance to stay attached while feeding, with some also secreting saliva with anesthetic properties so their presence goes unnoticed.

In the US, ticks can transmit many infections, which often present with similar signs and symptoms. Tick-borne illnesses include:

  • Anaplasmosis
  • Babesiosis
  • Borrelia mayonii infection 
  • B. burgdorferi infection
  • Borrelia miyamotoi infection 
  • Bourbon virus infection
  • Colorado tick fever
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Heartland virus
  • Lyme disease
  • Powassan disease
  • Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Southern tick-associated rash illness
  • Tick-borne relapsing fever
  • Tularemia
  • 364D rickettsiosis (Rickettsia phillipi, proposed)

Some of the most common symptoms of these illnesses include fever/chills, aches and pains, rash, joint pain, and more, depending on your geographic region and other factors. 

We’re Not Just About Mosquitoes: Check Out Our Tick Prevention Tips

If you’re serious about tick control, reach out to the experts at Mosquito Authority. We understand the importance of having a reliable and trustworthy tick control program, and our team of professionals utilizes high-grade products designed to keep ticks away. 

To prevent infestations in your yard, be aware of the main sources and follow these tips:

  • Remove leaf litter, tall grasses, brush, and other yard waste to clear away tick hiding spots
  • Mow your lawn frequently to keep the grass short
  • Use wood chips or gravel to create a three-foot wide barrier between lawns and wooded areas to restrict migration and movement
  • Stack wood neatly and in a dry area to discourage rodents
  • Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees
  • Discourage rodents, deer, and raccoons from entering your yard by constructing fences

The best way to disrupt the tick life cycle and reduce the tick population in your yard is to hire a professional tick extermination company like Mosquito Authority. Our licensed tick control service features the same great customer experience and benefits that come with our mosquito control program. 

We offer several options to keep ticks from ruining your yard, including tick barrier control services and tick tubes. The experts at Mosquito Authority have over two decades of experience dealing with ticks and can provide the best course of action when it comes to effectively controlling these pests on your property. 

Contact us today for more information about how Mosquito Authority can help you disrupt the tick life cycle on your property for good by taking tick prevention steps and relying on our services to keep your outdoor activities safe.

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