Tick Nymph

2016 October 26

Sandy was petting the dog on June 27, 2016, and felt a tiny object on the dog’s skin that didn’t feel quite like part of the dog. So, she got our Tick Twister tool, and pulled off the object. Which turned out to have legs.


So yes, it is a tick, but not a big tick like the ones we’ve mostly seen previously. Here it is on a sheet of standard blue-lined writing paper, so you can use the two blue lines on opposite sides of the picture for scale.


So, this little thing would be a tick nymph, that probably just hatched. Here it is on my fingertip, just to emphasize how tiny it is.


Looking closer, we can see that its abdomen is practically transparent, and it probably didn’t get any blood out of the poor dog.


So, anyway, the only food of ticks is blood, and so they have to get several blood meals over the course of their life, usually from very different hosts. The first host is usually something small, like a mouse or a bird, although as we see from this one, they will go after larger hosts too given a chance. After spending a few days getting its first blood meal, the tick drops off to digest it and molt to the next larger stage, at which point it needs to find another host and repeat the cycle. A single tick might go through three or four hosts before maturing and laying eggs. This multiple-hosts thing is one of the features that makes ticks so nasty as disease spreaders. They can easily pick up a disease from one host in an early feeding, and spread it to another in a later feeding. And since they are switching between species, they can spread diseases between species as well, and when diseases jump from one species to another, the second species often has little tolerance to it, and the disease is particularly nasty.

2 Responses
  1. Carole permalink
    October 26, 2016

    So if I’m understanding correctly, a nymph would not be a carrier of disease until it has picked it up from a blood meal. Good to know.

  2. October 27, 2016

    Carole: Yes, that is correct. For all practical purposes, ticks don’t have a significant likelihood of passing on a disease until they get to the adult stage, and have had several opportunities to pick up something from an infected host.

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