The quick answer is no
“If they died, where would next year’s ticks come from?”
- Dr. Thomas Mather, Tick Expert, University of Rhode Island Tick Encounter Resource Center
Ticks in the winter - Why ticks do not die in the winter
It’s a common myth that ticks die in the fall or winter. According to Dr. Thomas Mather, Tick Expert at the University of Rhode Island, this is simply not true. Rather ticks become less active when it becomes too cold for their legs to move. So, even in the coldest regions of North America, ticks can remain active when temperatures are above freezing.
Lifecycle of a tick
To best understand why ticks don’t die in the fall and winter, we have to consider a tick’s lifecycle, which can last upwards of two to three years and consist of four stages, egg, larva, nymph, and adult.
An example lifecycle of a tick throughout the seasons. Starting with an egg, growing into a larva, nymph, adult female, and finally ending with laying eggs.
Stage 1: Egg
In the spring, after an adult tick completes their two to three-year lifespan, it often lays eggs. In fact, one tick can lay thousands of eggs! These eggs can be found in the leaves and brush– this is the first stage.
Stage 2: Larva
The second stage is the larva stage. In the summer, tick eggs hatch into tiny larvae. They often can be encountered by the hundreds and thousands in places like long grass and brush on the sides of trails. Many people call these “larvae bombs” as these extremely tiny ticks spread out from quarter-sized clumps and are as tiny as specks of dirt to the eye. Especially in the fall, it’s important to continue tick prevention efforts like wearing permethrin-treated socks.
Read about how Heather Hopkins, assistant to Dr. Thomas Mather, encountered larvae which resulted in hundreds of larval tick bites. Read Now
Stage 3: Nymph
Between the fall and spring seasons, larvae will molt into nymphs, which marks the third stage of the tick lifecycle. During the colder months, nymphs sit dormant in places like fallen leaves, snow cover, and other areas. Once the warmer spring weather arrives, nymphs start looking for a host throughout the spring and summer.
Stage 4: Adult
Once a nymph feeds and falls off, they transition to the adult stage. During the fall, they may continue to seek out hosts, and if unable, they’ll resort to remaining under fallen leaves and other areas, becoming more dormant as temperatures drop below freezing. Then these adults mate, lie eggs again in the spring and die, completing the tick lifecycle.
How to stay protected from ticks year-round
It’s important to remember to stay protected from ticks at each stage of their lifecycle and to avoid tick bites year-round. Help stay protected from ticks by wearing permethrin-treated socks, pants, and other clothes. Dr. Thomas Mather also recommends treating your shoes with permethrin spray once a month in the spring and summer.