Ticks are nasty little insects that attach themselves to the skin of animals and suck their blood. This fact alone makes ticks one of the things you should want to avoid. Worse yet, ticks also present a health risk for both humans and pets.
They are capable of transmitting a number of diseases which include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and tick paralysis – a condition caused by the female wood tick.
As unsavoury as they are, you’ve got to hand it to them, ticks are quite impressive parasites that can live for years. They patiently wait for a host to pass by, then leap onto it. In just a few hours, the tick will have attached itself by piercing the skin and burrowing its head into the host’s flesh. Ticks can feed on one host for a few hours or a few weeks – disturbing, I know. After they are done engorging themselves with blood, ticks drop off to lay eggs.
So how do these annoying creatures come to being? Let’s take a look at their life cycle.
What is a tick’s lifecycle?
There are over 850 species of ticks that fall into two broad classifications: hard ticks and soft ticks. This is in reference to their outer covering or scutum – Soft ticks don’t have one. Hard ticks are the most troublesome as they are the ones that prey on pets, so we’ll focus on their development.
Once the female hard tick has bred (generally on the hosts body), it drops to the ground where it lays its eggs. A female tick can lay several thousand eggs at a time. These will eventually hatch into larvae, the first step in the pest’s development. The larva, also known as a seed tick, is about one-eighth of an inch in size and has six legs.
After hatching, an immature tick requires to feed on blood at each stage to continue developing. The other stages of development are nymph (which is eight legged) and then adult. Because they require a number of hosts to feed on before they fully mature, the cycle is sometimes very long (up to three years) and most ticks will die before they get a new host for their next feeding.
How to control ticks?
The first step in controlling pests – all pests for that matter – is prevention. Since ticks cannot jump, they need to find elevated places where they can come close enough to a host’s body to attach themselves. Grass and other overgrown vegetation provide a perfect platform for ticks to leap from. Grass also provides good shelter for these pests. To prevent an infestation mow your lawn regularly and trim vegetation around your home.
Birds and rodents are easy prey for ticks, and through them ticks can be introduced into your home. Check your pet’s) regularly for ticks. The good thing about ticks is that they can’t hide once they attach to a host and can be easily spotted. Be careful when removing ticks from your pet’s body to avoid crushing them as they might release dangerous fluids.