The black-legged/deer tick

And be sure to check out the rest of the series:

  • Part 1: Overview
  • Part 2: Life history
  • Part 3: Feeding and habitat
  • Part 4: The tick, Lyme, human connection
  • Part 5: Testing, treatment, and resources

Deer tick life cycle (from Wikipedia)

Life history

Larval stage
Eggs hatch mid-summer and the larval stage is active through early fall. Larvae tend to stay close to the ground and attach to small hosts like mice, chipmunks, and other small mammals. They feed for about 3 days on the host until engorged, at which point they drop back to the ground. After the blood meal, the 6-legged larva molts, gets larger, and emerges in the spring as an 8-legged nymph.
Nymphs are active spring through late summer, feeding on a much wider range of animal sizes, from mice to dogs to deer and even humans. As these ticks have already fed on a host, they are more likely to be carriers of the Lyme-causing bacteria, Borrellia burgdorferi. Feeding takes slightly longer (3-4 days), and again, after fully engorged they’ll drop to the ground, molt, and emerge in the fall as adults.

Adults are mostly active October through May, seeking out larger hosts for their final blood meal. Ticks will mate on the host, then the females will engorge before detaching from the host. She’ll then lay a clutch of thousands of eggs in the leaf litter.

Digging all this natural history content?

Become a monthly supporter on Patreon.

Be sure to check the archives for back issues.
And shoot me an email if you have an idea for a future blog post, newsletter issue, or podcast episode!

Subscribe to the Newsletter