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Last updated date: 23rd Apr 2024
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Tick Insect Meaning

Define Tick: Ticks (suborder Ixodida) are parasitic arachnids belonging to the Parasitiformes superorder. They belong to the Acari subclass, which also includes mites. Adult ticks range in length from 3 to 5 mm, based on their age, species, sex, and "fullness." What is a tick? Ticks are parasitic insects that feed on the blood of birds, rodents, and often amphibians and reptiles.

Ticks are thought to have evolved about 120 million years ago (MYA), with the oldest tick fossil found in New Jersey amber dating back 90–94 million years. Ticks are found all over the world, particularly in hot, humid climates.

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Tick Animals are Classified Into Three Families: Argasidae (soft ticks), Ixodidae (hard ticks), and Nuttalliellidae (monotypic). The Ixodidae and Argasidae families include the majority of tick species. Adults possess eight legs and ovoid/pear-shaped bodies (idiosomas) that become swollen with blood while they eat. Their abdomen and cephalothorax are fused together entirely.

Strong ticks possess a beak-like structure at the front that contains the mouthparts, while soft ticks feature their mouthparts on the underside of their bodies, in addition to having a strong shield on their dorsal surfaces identified as the scutum. Ticks use odour, moisture, body heat, and/or vibrations in the atmosphere to find possible hosts. Ticks go through four stages of development: embryo, nymph, larva, and adult. Tick insect belong to the Ixodidae family and seem to live in one-, two-, or three-host environments. Argasid ticks include around seven nymphal stages (instars), species of ticks, each of which necessitates the consumption of blood. They also do have a multi-host lifestyle. Ticks are vectors of numerous dangerous diseases that affect humans and several other animals due to their hematophagous (blood-eating) diets.

Anatomy and Physiology

Ticks, including mites, are members of the Acari subclass, which lacks the main somatic segmentation of the abdomen (or opisthosoma), instead of presenting a later fusion of the abdomen with the cephalothorax (or prosoma). The gnathosoma (head), which is retractable and includes the mouthparts, and idiosoma (body), which comprises the digestive tract, legs, and reproductive organs, has evolved from the tagmata common of many other Chelicerata. The gnathosoma is an eating system with mouthparts designed for penetrating the skin and sucking the blood; it is located toward the front of the head and does not include the brain or eyes. Two palps, a hypostome and two chelicerae are among the gnathosoma's features. The hypostome serves as a stabiliser, allowing the tick's mouthparts to be more securely attached to the host. Chelicerae are specialised appendages that cut and pierce the skin of the host, whereas palps are sensory appendages.

Sclerites are found on the idiosoma's ventral side, as well as the gonopore is found between the fourth and fifth pairs of legs. The position of the pupils, limbs, and gonopore on the idiosoma do provide just locational guidance in the lack of segmentation. The majority of ticks are inornate, with a brown or reddish-brown appearance. Some animals, on the other hand, feature ornate white designs on their scutum.

Diet and Feeding

Ticks are ectoparasites, which means they eat blood to meet all of their food needs. They are obligate hematophages, meaning they need blood to survive and progress through life stages. Ticks will go without food for extended periods of time, however, if they don't find a host, they will die. Hematophagy developed independently at minimum six times in late Cretaceous arthropods; it is believed to have originated 120 million years ago in ticks as a result of adaptation to blood-feeding. This behaviour evolved separately within each tick family, with different host-tick interactions influencing the evolutionary shift.

Few ticks adhere quickly to their hosts, whereas others scavenge for thinner tissue, such as that found in mammals' ears. Making preparations to eat can take anywhere from ten minutes to a few hours, based on the species and life cycle. The tick grabs the host's skin and slices into it when it finds a good feeding spot. It collects blood by making a hole in the epidermis of the host, through which it introduces its hypostome, and then excretes an anticoagulant or platelet aggregation inhibitor to keep the blood clots from forming.

Tick insect locates their hosts by identifying the breath and body odours of their prey, as well as moisture, body heat, and vibrations. Ticks, contrary to popular belief, do not leap onto their hosts or fall from trees. They are also unable to fly or jump. Numerous tick species, specifically those belonging to the Ixodidae family, wait in a position termed as "questing." Ticks stick to grasses and leaves with their third and fourth pairs of legs when on the hunt. They keep the very first set of legs outstretched, ready to grab and cling to any passing host. Tick questing heights are usually linked to the size of the target host; nymphs and small species prefer to quest near to the ground, in which they might meet and encounter bird hosts or small mammalian; adults ascend higher further into vegetation, in which they might meet bigger hosts. Few species are hunters, and they tend to congregate near areas where hosts may be resting. They crawl or run throughout the intervening surface in response to an olfactory signal or other environmental cues.

Other ticks, especially those belonging to the Argasidae family, are nidicolous, meaning they find hosts in their burrows, nests, or caves. They classify hosts using the same cues as non-nidicolous organisms, with body heat and odours being the most important factors. Several of them eat mostly birds, but some Ornithodoros species, for instance, eat small mammals. Soft ticks of both types eat quickly, biting aggressively and consuming their load in moments. They reside in the sand, or in human dwellings, or in crevices close to animal dens or nests, wherein they move out overnight to target roosting birds or appear whenever they smell carbon dioxide in their hosts' air, unlike the Ixodidae, which seem to have no defined dwelling place other than on the host.

Range and Habitat

Tick species are found all over the world, however, they thrive most in countries with humid and warm climates as they need a definite quantity of moisture in the air to metamorphose, and low temperatures prevent their eggs from developing into larvae. Tick parasitism is found in a wide range of host taxa, comprising marsupial and placental mammals, reptiles (such as lizards, iguanas, and snakes), birds, and amphibians. Domestic animal ticks lead to severe consequences to livestock by transmitting pathogens, causing anaemia from blood loss, and harming wool and hides. The Tropical Bont tick spreads disease, primarily heartwater disease, which causes havoc on wildlife and livestock in Africa, the Caribbean, as well as many other countries. The spinose ear tick is found all over the world, and its young feed within the ears of cattle and other animals.

The ecotone, or unmaintained intermediate edge ecosystem between woodlands and open areas, is a favored habitat for ticks. As a result, clearing brush, leaf litter, and weeds from the woods' edge is one tick management technique. Ticks prefer shady, humid leaf litter with a canopy of trees or shrubs, and they lay their eggs in these kinds of areas in the spring, enabling larvae to arise in the fall and move under low-lying vegetation. Tick nymphs are typically located in the 3-metre region nearest to the lawn's edge, where 82 percent of tick nymphs are observed.


Ticks can be found almost everywhere their host species can be found. Ticks accompany migratory birds on their journeys; a study of migratory birds travelling via Egypt identified ticks on much more than half of the bird species investigated. The tick species sometimes differed based on the season of migration, which in this case was spring and autumn. It is believed to be due to the seasonal periodicities of the various species.

To sustain ticks, an ecosystem needs to meet two conditions: the total population of host species in the region should be high enough, and the environment has to be humid enough for ticks to stay in hydration. Ixodid ticks, especially the North American I. scapularis, were being researched through geographic information systems to create predictive models for suitable tick habitats because of their function in transmitting Lyme disease. Some microclimate characteristics, like rivers, hardwood trees, sandy soil, and the existence of deer, have been generally considered acceptable predictors of heavy tick communities in such studies.

Ticks are indeed a small food resource for birds, and mites and nematodes and they do feed on them. Ticks, however, serve as disease vectors and primary hosts for a variety of pathogens, including spirochaetes. Ticks bear a variety of debilitating diseases, so they can help manage animal populations and avoid overgrazing.

Ticks are capable of transmitting a variety of infectious diseases to humans and several other species. Ticks carrying zoonotic pathogens sometimes have a broad host range. The infective agents could be found not just in adult ticks, as well as in the eggs that female ticks grow in large numbers. As a consequence of the movement of humans, domesticated pets, and animals, numerous tick species subsequently expanded their ranges. Many people and their dogs could be vulnerable to ticks as a result of increased involvement in outdoor activities like wilderness hikes.

Life Cycle

The tick parasite has four life stages: embryo, larva, nymph, and adult in all three of its families.

Ixodidae: Tick animal in the Ixodidae family include three distinct life cycles. Ixodids may have a one-host life cycle, a two-host life cycle, or a three-host lifecycle, based on the variety of species.

  • One-Host Ticks: The tick stays on the host via the larval, nymphal, and adult stages before leaving to produce eggs in one-host ticks. Larvae hatch from eggs deposited in the environment, and they start seeking out a host to bind to and rely on. Unfed nymphs moult into fed larvae and stay on the host. The nymphs moult into sexually grown-up adults upon ingesting the host's blood and stay on the host to eat and breed. Just after a female has been fed and is willing to lay eggs will she abandon the host in pursuit of a convenient environment and place to lay her eggs. One-host ticks are ticks that adopt this life cycle.

  • Two-Host Ticks: A two-host tick's life cycle can last up to two years. The pregnant female tick would fall off her second host and deposit her eggs during the fall. The eggs hatch in the winter, and the larvae appear in the spring to stick to their first host. In terms of getting a blood meal, freshly hatched larvae bind to a host. They turn into nymphs while still attached to the host. When engorged, they abandon the host and seek out a safe place in the natural world to moult into adults, which usually takes place in the winter. Both female adults and male adults look for a body to cling to, that may or may not be the same body that acted as a host throughout their development, however is usually a larger mammal. They eat and mate once they've become connected. Females who are pregnant leave the host to oviposit in the environment. Ticks including Hyalomma anatolicum excavatum, which finish their life cycle in this way, are known as two-host ticks.

  • Three-Host Ticks: The majority of ixodid ticks need three hosts and have a three-year life cycle. In the fall, the female tick leaves its host and deposits lots of eggs. The larvae grow in the spring after hatching in the winter. When the larvae develop, they stick to small birds and mammals and prey on them. The larvae appear engorged during the summer and fall off the first host to moult and become nymphs, which happens frequently in the fall. The nymphs arise the following summer and look for a new host, usually a small rodent. In the fall, the nymphs turn engorged and drop off the host to moult and mature into adults. The adult ticks appear the following spring season and look for a larger host, usually a large mammal like cattle and even humans. On their third host, females would mate. Males feed sparingly and stay on the host to begin mating with several other females, whereas female adults gorge themselves on blood and intend to drop off to place their eggs on the ground.


Unlike ixodid ticks, the argasid tick parasite could go through up to seven nymphal stages (instars), each needing a blood meal. Egg laying and mating are frequently done away from the host in a protected setting. The eggs hatch and the larvae feed for several hours to a few days on a neighbouring host, depending on the tick type. After feeding, the larvae drop and moult into their first nymphal instars, in under an hour, the nymph tries out and continues to feed itself on the second host, which can often be just like the first. This process repeats itself until the tick reaches the last nymphal instar, enabling it to moult into an adult. Such ticks eat quickly and on a regular basis during their entire lifespan as adults. 

Adult females in certain species can deposit eggs after each feeding. Their life cycles will last anywhere from a few months to several years. Over the course of this period, an adult female argasid tick will deposit anywhere from a few hundred to more than a thousand eggs. Adults, both male and female, suck blood and mate with the host. Any excess fluid is released by the coxal glands throughout feeding, a mechanism peculiar to argasid ticks.


Nuttalliellidae is a cryptic monotypic tick family with only one species: Nuttalliella namaqua. The lifecycle and feeding habits of N. namaqua are unknown, but it is thought that this tick species feed on a variety of different hosts.

Tick-Borne Disease

Ticks are thought to be involved in the transmission of a variety of diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, and protozoa. When a tick carries more than one form of the pathogen, detection of the infection becomes more challenging. Typhus, African tick bite fever, boutonneuse fever, Flinders Island spotted fever, rickettsialpox, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Queensland tick typhus (Australian tick typhus) are all caused by Rickettsia species. Lyme disease and Q fever, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Crimean–Congo hemorrhagic fever, Bourbon virus, tularemia, Colorado tick fever, tick-borne relapsing fever, and tick-borne meningoencephalitis, and also bovine anaplasmosis and the Heartland virus, are only a few of the tick-borne diseases. Lyme disease has been the most frequently identified vector-borne disease in the United States.

Most species, such as the Australian paralysis tick, are venomous by nature and therefore can paralysis ticks. As pathogens attack eggs within a female tick's ovaries, the larval ticks grow contagious as soon as they hatch, until feeding and relying on their first host. Heartwater is transmitted by tropical bont ticks, which could be especially harmful to livestock. Migratory birds' ticks serve as reservoirs and vectors for foreign infectious diseases. Around 20 strains of pathogenic viruses have been reported in the tick collection from autumn in the Egyptian migratory bird report.

Population Control Measures

Tries to restrict the population or spread of disease-causing ticks have indeed been largely ineffective, with the probable exception of extensive DDT use in the Soviet Union. Ixodiphagus hookeri, a parasitic chalcid wasp, has indeed been studied for its ability to monitor tick populations. It lays its eggs in ticks, and the hatching wasps attack and kill the ticks.

By reducing the density and/or tick load of reservoir-competent hosts, predators and competitors of tick hosts will indirectly lower the density of infectious nymphs, reducing the risk of tick-borne disease. The amount of larval ticks on bank voles and wood mice has been observed to be decreased in areas where red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and stone marten (Martes foina) activity became high.

This backs up the findings of the research from the northeastern United States that found a negative correlation between the density of red foxes and the incidence of Lyme borreliosis, likely because foxes reduce the density of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus), the much more crucial reservoir-competent host for Borrelia burgdorferi.

FAQs on Tick

Q1. What is the Time it Takes for a Tick to Become Engorged?

Ans. Nymphs take two to three days to completely engorge, while adults take four to seven days. If a tick has Lyme bacteria, it typically takes 36 hours for it to kill you. It's important to remember that not all deer ticks are infected.”

Q2. Is it Possible for a Tick to Kill a Dog?

Ans. Paralysis tick bugs are deadly parasites that can kill your dog or cat in just a few days after symptoms appear. Ticks are most commonly located around the animal's head and neck, and also within the ears, but they can appear anywhere on the body.