McHenry County Department of Health - Environmental Health
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Two Year Life Cycle of a Tick

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Tick life cycle


Ticks have a two year life cycle that begins in early spring when adult female ticks lay their eggs on the ground.  The eggs hatch as the temperatures rise.  The larva feed on mice and other small animals from summer until early fall.  These larvae may become infected with Lyme Disease while feeding.  Once infected, the tick will remain infected for the rest of its life allowing it to transmit the disease during subsequent feedings.

After the first feeding, the larvae becomes inactive and rests through winter in leaf litter, under rocks or woodpiles or any place where they can find sufficient cover.  During this time, the larva molts into a nymph.

The next spring, the nymphs emerge.  These nymphs are responsible for the majority of Lyme Disease cases in humans.  In the fall, they molt into adults.  The adult positions itself on the tips of grass or shrubs and climbs onto deer and other large mammals as they pass by.  Once the adult tick has selected a host, it feeds and mates.  Once mated, the female tick drops off, lays her eggs, and the cycle begins again.