The life cycle of the blacklegged deer tick is dependent on environmental conditions and how many hosts are available for them to feed on. The entire process generally takes 1-2 years, but can take up to 4 years. In the spring a female deer tick will lay a very large number of eggs (up to 3,000) in the vegetation. After laying her eggs the female will die.
A six-legged larva emerges from the egg and then chooses a small animal like a mouse or other rodent to feed on. After feeding for a period of time it drops off of the host and molts into an 8 legged nymph. The nymph then chooses another host to feed on until they are ready to drop off and molt into an adult. After becoming an adult the blacklegged deer tick chooses a third host to feed from. This host can include white-tailed deer, raccoons, foxes, squirrels, chipmunks, farm animals, and humans.
Blacklegged deer ticks carry and transmit Lyme disease. This serious disease can become quite debilitating overtime if treatment is not sought. The first symptoms of Lyme disease can mimic those of the flu. Symptoms like fever, aches, and pain. The person bit more often than not develop a distinctive bulls-eye rash in one area or several areas of their body. Overtime untreated Lyme disease will lead to complications with the heart and nervous system, along with joint swelling and the erosion of cartilage and bone.
Lyme disease is caused by the corkscrew shaped bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. An infected tick can easily transmit this disease to each host that it feeds on, and thus quickly spreading the disease throughout an area. The longer the tick is attached to and feeds on the host the greater the chance that they will become infected with the Lyme disease pathogen. If a tick is found and effectively removed from a host within 24 hours it will greatly reduce the chances on contracting Lyme disease.
If you find a tick attached to your or your pet you should use a pair of fine tipped tweezers, not your fingers, to grasp the tick as close to the skin of the host as possible and pull it off. You can save the tick in rubbing alcohol to bring to your doctor for identification.