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The Garden Guru

Don’t be Lunch

Jim Boxberger
Posted 4/8/22

Before coming up with the Siberian Centipede idea last week, I was going to be writing about a real predator that is already out this year, Ticks. With the change in season, ticks are on the hunt for …

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The Garden Guru

Don’t be Lunch


Before coming up with the Siberian Centipede idea last week, I was going to be writing about a real predator that is already out this year, Ticks. With the change in season, ticks are on the hunt for a quick meal after coming out of hibernation.

Two weeks ago I found one crawling on Lily (my dog) and I got out her Seresto collar and put it on. Ticks can be a problem for a long time as their lifecycles can last upwards of two to three years. Their lifecycle consists of the following four stages: egg, larva, nymph and adult.

In order to progress to successive life stages, ticks must successfully feed on a host (also known as having a blood meal). Hosts can include birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals, including people and pets. Tick eggs are often laid in the spring after female ticks complete their two to three-year life span. One tick can lay thousands of eggs.

While ticks need to detach before laying eggs (and therefore can’t lay eggs directly on a host), eggs can be found under leaf litter, leaf brush and other warm, soft places outside. In the summer, tick eggs hatch into six-legged larvae. Although rare, larval ticks may be infectious as some tick-borne illnesses can be transmitted from an adult tick to the eggs, which is called transovarial transmission.

However, ticks mainly become infectious once they absorb a pathogen from one of their hosts. For example, during the larvae stage, one of the most common tick hosts is the white-footed mouse, a mammal which is known to carry Lyme disease causing bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi). If a larval tick becomes infected with Lyme disease or another tick-borne illness, they will maintain the infection throughout the remainder of their life.

When the larvae are finished feeding on their first host, they’ll fall to the ground and begin molting as they transition to the next lifecycle stage – nymphs. Between the fall and spring, larvae will molt into nymphs. At this stage, they have eight legs and are most active when the weather is above 37 degrees Fahrenheit.

During the colder months, nymphs will sit dormant under leaf litter, snow cover and shaded areas. When the weather warms, nymphs will begin looking for their next host. If already infected, nymphs can transmit Lyme disease to their new host, or nymphs may become infected with a tick-borne disease by feeding on an infected host, or even contract a second tick-borne disease making them co-infected with various pathogens.

Once attached to their host, nymphs will feed for four to five days before dropping off to start transitioning into their final life stage – an adult. During the fall, when the nymph falls off its host and transitions into an adult, it will look for its third and final host. During the nymph and adult phases, ticks can seek out humans as their hosts and possibly transmit disease.

Roughly, one out of every two adult female deer ticks are infected with disease. Lyme disease transmission can occur as early as 18 to 24 hours of a tick being attached to a host. So doing routine tick checks every night is important for everyone who works outside or even had lunch in the park.

During winter, adult ticks unable to locate hosts retreat underneath leaf litter or other surface vegetation, becoming inactive in temperatures below 37 degrees Fahrenheit. Applying insectide to your lawn and brushy areas in late fall can greatly reduce tick populations.

After feeding on their final host, and depending on the weather and time of year, ticks will look to begin mating. Males typically die after mating with a female, and females will reproduce by laying thousands of eggs during the spring and die shortly thereafter, thereby completing the tick lifecycle.

So plan accordingly whenever going outside for work or play. Use repellents and do regular tick checks and remember to please protect your pets as ticks are five times as likely to be found on your dog than they are on you.


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