Tick Habitat & Life Cycle Help to Better Understand Behavior
Camping, hiking, and taking a stroll through a park or woods are all activities that can make summer exciting and memorable.
However, this year more than ever before, memories won’t be the only thing you’ll be leaving the great outdoors with. You’ll likely be leaving with ticks, too.
It’s important to know where ticks come from, and thus, where ticks are found and how to properly prepare for them so that you can prevent yourself from becoming their next victim.
Ticks are known to thrive in warm, humid environments, and take shelter among fallen leaves, tall grasses, and shrubs. As parasites, they feed on the blood of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. This is often how diseases are transmitted to ticks.
While feeding, a tick can live with a host from a span of a few hours to multiple weeks.
One common misconception is that ticks live in trees. Ticks’ inability to jump, as well as their natural habitat — in tall grass on the ground — make this improbable. If you are finding a tick higher up on your body, it is because it climbed there. Ticks are known to hide in difficult-to-reach places that have more moisture, areas such as underarm, groin, or head.
Another common misconception is that ticks disappear in the winter. They don’t. Ticks can survive cold temperatures, however, it does significantly decrease their activity.
Tick Life Cycle
Ticks have four stages of life: egg, larvae, nymph, and adult.
During each stage of the tick’s growth, different sources of food (called hosts) are required to help it survive. Eggs are laid by the thousands on the ground amongst leaves and other brush.
After hatching, the larvae feed on small game within their surroundings such mice and birds. The larvae stays low to the forest floor where the moisture and shade from the ground and the leaf litter help keep it hydrated.
As the tick grows into a nymph and eventually an adult, it will begin to look for larger mammals to prey on. The prime places for a nymph, or adult tick, to position itself to latch onto prey are high grass or shrubs. When a tick finds a nearby food source, it will climb up to lay in wait, until the animal or human gets close enough for it to latch onto.
After the tick has its fill of the host’s blood, it detaches itself from the host and falls off, living back among the leaves and grasses until it’s next feeding. This cycle will continue for the rest of the tick’s life.
How To Keep Ticks Away from Your Home
Ticks are not only pests, but carriers of dangerous disease.
To keep them out of your yard, it’s best to make sure to keep your grass mowed, cut back bushes and shrubs, and clean up leaf litter left over from the fall. Putting up fencing to keep wildlife out of your lawn or garden can also help to stop the spread of ticks.
Protect yourself when going outside by dressing appropriately and wearing repellent that contains DEET. According to the Center for Disease Control, treating clothing, boots, and gear with products containing permethrin, as well as other common repellents can help to keep ticks at bay. After coming in from the outdoors, thoroughly check yourself and your pets for ticks and shower with a reasonable time frame.
Ticks are a major pest, but knowing the proper ways to deal with them can help you get through the summer and make the kind of memories you want: tick-free ones.