Learning more about lyme disease
More information for medical professionals, educators, media and families.



tick sizes 1

(CanLyme; www.CanLyme.org; not actual size)


Lifecycle of a Tick

Ticks contract the Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) during their nymphal and larval stages by feeding on infected rodents, birds, and other small animals that have the bacteria in their blood.
Ticks take roughly two years to complete their lifecycle. The precise timing depends on the species of tick and the climate. Warmer temperatures can lead to more rapid development of the tick’s cycle. The illustration above demonstrates how people and their pets are, in general, more likely to make contact with ticks during Spring and Fall than during the hot Summer or cold Winter but it is possible to encounter ticks at all times of year in Alberta.

ticks              tick 2                

A Tick's Lifecycle (Source: CDC website)

Feeding Behaviour of Ticks

Ticks can’t jump, so they must find alternate ways to attach to their hosts. They will use blades of grass and other vegetation to elevate themselves to a higher level where they can grasp onto animals passing by such as rodents or birds. Carbon dioxide levels emitted by warm-blooded mammals, alert ticks to passing hosts.

This procedure is called "questing," and ticks use this behaviour to find their first host for an initial blood meal. After filling with blood, the larval ticks fall off the host and to the ground where they shed their outer skin and transform into a new life stage as an eight-legged nymphs.

The nymph will then lie in wait for a second host to attach on which to feed on their blood. The nymphs prefer a slightly larger animal as a host, such as a rabbit. Following their meal, the nymphs drop off again where they will molt (shed their outer skin) again to enter their final stage of life as adult ticks. The adult ticks then go on a hunt for a third, even larger host, such as a deer or dog, where they are content to feed followed by breeding, resulting in reproduction (i.e., eggs).

Click here to learn more about the transmission of lyme disease and safe tick removal!

More in this category: « About the LDAA Transmission »