Ticks: Know Your Enemy
Engorged tick on bird
The tick life cycle typically starts in spring, as females release thousands of eggs, tucked away in layers of moist vegetation until ready to hatch with the warmer temperatures of summer. Eggs hatch into pin tip-sized larvae, then seek their first blood meal, typically from disease-ridden rodents, and the pathogenic cascade begins. During each of their remaining feedings nymph and adult ticks are capable of transmitting a variety of diseases to each successive host.
Ticks don’t fly or jump, instead they find their hosts from ground level vegetation. They sense the smell and movement of potential hosts while sitting atop blades of grass or the tips of shrubbery with their front legs outstretched, a behaviour known as questing. Once they’ve climbed aboard an unsuspecting host, they find a suitable feeding spot, cut through the skin with two sharp pincer-like structures of the mouthpiece, and insert a barbed, tube-like appendage, through which they consume blood. In a brilliant evolutionary twist, tick saliva contains a substance that acts like cement, bonding the tick to its’ host, giving it the best chance possible to succeed in it’s feeding mission. The saliva of some ticks also contains an anesthetic property, making the bite painless, adding further to their imperceptibility.
Ticks are hardy survivalists. They’ve been around for millions of years, enduring massive extinction events, ice ages, plagues, environmental degradation and worse. They are capable of delivering a plethora of debilitating and deadly pathogens and operate with singular mission to eat, grow and reproduce. It cannot be stressed enough - prevention is the key to avoiding tick bites and their associated diseases. When venturing into the great outdoors (or your own backyard or favourite park) always use an effective, reliable tick repellent, bring a tick remover with you, and always remember to do your tick checks.