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How Long Do Ticks Live Without a Host?

Last Updated: 14.07.24


In case you live in a tick-prone area with lots of fields and vegetation around and you’ve been looking for an effective tick repellent spray, then you might also want to know a bit more about these parasites, including how long they can live for without a host. After all, this is not simply a matter of comfort for you and your loved ones, it is also one of safety.

Ticks belong to the arachnid group (together with scorpions and spiders, for example) and are one of the most common types of ectoparasites that live around us, affecting both our lives and those of our pets. Actually, active dogs and cats are particularly exposed to being bit by ticks, especially if they enjoy playing in grass and shrubs.

The bad part is that they can bring the ticks inside your home which means that even if you don’t go around the woods yourself, you can still be exposed to being bitten. Since they are hematophagous, ticks feed on the host’s blood, remaining attached throughout the entire process.

The downside is that they can carry a lot of dangerous diseases, but we’ll get to that in a bit. In the following lines, you’ll discover some of the essential information on these creatures, in order to understand their behavior and thus be able to protect yourself.


So how long do ticks live for?

Since there are multiple species of ticks across the country and they have various stages in a life cycle, the answer to this question depends on a number of factors. First, you should be aware that every type of tick has the ability to bite an individual or an animal, which means that the diseases they carry can spread quite easily.

These include some very serious ones, such as the Lyme disease, babesiosis, or ehrlichiosis. Moreover, extreme infestations can result in either a lack of iron or anemia, which can be very detrimental to an animal’s health.  

Going back to diseases for a bit, it’s good to be aware that a tick is, in fact, a vector, which means that it needs to come in direct contact and feed on a pet or person for a certain amount of time before the disease gets transmitted. For this reason, it’s a very good idea to check your pet and yourself after every walk in nature.

Identifying ticks and extracting them immediately can prevent (to a certain degree) the risk of getting a disease. However, you should make sure that as you remove the tick, its head doesn’t remain stuck within the skin. If it does, then you need to try to remove that as well, since otherwise, the risks of getting infected are still there.

When a tick attaches to a host, it uses its head to remain lodged into the skin and feed for a longer period, until it is full. This process depends on various factors such as the tick’s size and life stage, but it can go up to 10 days, maybe even 14 in some cases.

Removing a tick is not extremely complicated, but you will need a set of tweezers with which to grasp it as close to the skin as possible. Make sure that you don’t twist or turn it around as you pull since this can cause its head or mouth to break and remain there. Instead, you need to pull up straight, with an even force, and you might hear a pop when it detaches.



Life cycles

Since there are numerous tick species, their life cycle can be slightly different, but in general, you can take the following information into account. In terms of reproduction, ticks usually mate on the same host after feeding, and the female drops onto the ground to deposit the eggs.

A tick can lay anywhere from three thousand to seven thousand eggs, this being quite an alarming estimation. The eggs then hatch after 20 to 60 days, and the life cycle can begin. In terms of laying the eggs, females prefer areas with vegetation or cracks in the ground, especially if animals live nearby.

Once hatched, the baby ticks will usually find a smaller animal to feed on for a short amount of time, such as 2 or 3 days. After this process, they go back into the environment in order to become nymphs and then find another animal to feed on for another 4 to 6 days. The next phase is transforming into an adult, and from this point on, the tick can feed for 5 to 14 days.

That’s why, if you have a garden, you need to make sure that you carry out all the necessary measures to prevent their development. Otherwise, your family might become a potential target for feeding since ticks in both adult and larvae forms find humans to be good hosts.


How long do they live for without a host?

Now that you have a much better understanding of their life cycle, we can take a look at how long ticks can live without a host. This depends on the current life cycle stage, as well as on other factors such as the species. In general, larvae can go on living without food for as long as 8 months, in some cases even more.

Nymphs and adults can survive without a host for even longer, namely for up to a year and a half. Overall, a tick’s life cycle can take up to 4 years, taking into consideration how long they can go on without food.



How do ticks find their hosts?

Since we’ve talked about how long ticks live without a host, it might be interesting to take a look at how they find one. These parasites have the ability to detect odors, the breath of an animal, body heat, vibrations, and moisture. According to research, some species may even be able to recognize shadows.

Moreover, they usually select well-used paths and trails as places in which they wait for a host. While it’s true that ticks cannot jump or fly, they have developed what is known as a “questing” position. As they lay on the tips of shrubs and grasses, ticks use their third and fourth pair of legs to hold onto the vegetation.

The first pair of legs though are held outstretched, waiting for a host to climb onto. When a person or an animal brushes that spot, the tick quickly gets aboard and then, depending on various factors, it can either attach at once or wander for a bit looking for a smooth and nice spot, such as the ear or the head.


Some guidelines

It’s very important to constantly check yourself and your pets for ticks, and if any are seen, to remove them at once. This applies even if you use tick repellents since they might not be 100% effective or their effects might wear off due to other factors such as humidity.

Of course, you should avoid those areas where a high concentration of ticks might be present, particularly wooded areas. When it comes to your pets, you need to make sure that their deworming schedules are maintained, particularly during the spring and summer seasons, since these always bring along a boost in their population.



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