How Long Do Ticks Live

Taking the path less traveled ignites our exploration of self-discovery and provides meaningful insights that transform our perception of reality.

But, at the same time, it brings a hell of a lot of ticks.

The tiny blood-sucking parasite can last quite a long time with a host but an even more surprisingly long time in your home or on clothes.

In this blog post, you’ll know exactly how long ticks live in different scenarios, how to get rid of them, and how to treat tick bites if you get any.

Tick on leaf in outdoors

How Long Can Ticks Survive

Ticks can live for as long as 2-3 years in ideal conditions. They are, however, very sensitive to the environment and on average only live around 6 months. The length of a tick’s life depends entirely on its lifecycle stage, abundance of food, and environmental conditions.

A Tick’s Lifecycle Stage

Tick larvae crawling around

The four stages of a tick’s lifecycle are egg, larvae, nymphs, and adult but not every stage requires blood from a host.

In the egg stage, a tick can live without blood for weeks before it hatches into larvae.

Otherwise, a tick will need a host to survive or it will perish before it can lay eggs and continue its life cycle.

A Tick’s Food Source

Puppy with mouth open laying down

Ticks are known as a parasite species, which means they live by feeding off the blood of a host.

Humans, other mammals, birds, reptiles, and even amphibians can all be a tick's host over their lifetime.

In order for a tick to live its full lifecycle, it’ll need a consistent host throughout the larvae, nymph, and adult stage.

A Tick’s Environmental Condition

Sun in front of clouds

The true purpose of a ticks life is to mate and procreate and once the deed is done, male ticks die soon after.

Female ticks, on the other hand, lay large numbers of eggs before they end up dying.

Other than procreation, ticks won’t live very long if you’re applying some chemical killer like Deet or Permethrin.

Another sure way to get rid of ticks is using extreme heat. Put the suckers in the dryer or some other heating source and they won’t last long.

Common Species and Average Life Span

Tick on human skin

You’ll find over 90 different species of ticks hiding in wooded, grassy areas across the United States. Each one has a different life span for the different stages of its lifecycle.

Below are the most common species of ticks in the U.S. and the average life spans of each lifecycle.

Chart with lifespans of different tick species

Deer Tick

  • Larvae – Less than one year without food
  • Nymph – Three years without food
  • Adult – Less than one year without food

American Dog Tick

  • Larvae – 540 days without food
  • Nymphs – 584 days with food
  • Adult – 2 to 3 years without food

Brown Dog Tick

  • Larvae – 8 months without food
  • Nymph – 3 months without food
  • Adult – 18 months without food

Lone Star Tick

  • Larvae – 279 days without food
  • Nymph – 476 days without food
  • Adult – 430 days without food

Rocky Mountain Wood Tick

  • Larvae – 117 days without food
  • Nymph – 300 days without food
  • Adult – 600 days without food

How Long Can Ticks Live Without a Host

Tick on the stem of a flower

Depending on the species of a tick and the stage of its lifecycle, it can live between 3 months and 3 years without the blood of a host.

Younger ticks like larvae and nymphs are typically more vulnerable to death from the loss of a host.

They won’t live as long without a host compared to an adult tick and they aren’t able to mature either.

If a larvae doesn’t get blood from a host it won’t transition into a nymph, and a nymph won’t transition into an adult without blood from a host.

Just hoping your tick issue will go away with time isn’t the best defense against an infestation.

If you’ve tracked ticks into your home after a weekend out camping, you’ll need to take proper precautions.

Spray your home and fumigate to prevent ticks from maturing and using your family or pets as hosts.

How Long Do Ticks Live on Clothing

Pile of clothes in basket with laundry detergent

Ticks typically live up to 24 hours on dry clothing while wet clothing allows ticks to live for 2-3 days. Ticks love humidity so if your clothes are inside and in a dry environment, the tick doesn’t have what it needs to live long.

If you came home from camping and threw your clothes directly in the hamper, it would create a damp environment for the tick.

They could live a few days hanging out in the hamper but it’s the dryer that will do them in.

Pro Tip: If you're worried about ticks, throw your clothes directly in the dryer when you get home.

The extreme heat and dry environment will get rid of any ticks and then you can throw them in the washer for cleaning.

How Long Do Ticks Live on House Pets

Dog scratching his own ear

Ticks can live on house pets just as long as they would live on any other host, around 2-3 years.

Even if your family avoids ticks they can hop a ride on your furry family member instead and come into your home.

They typically only attach to your pet for a few days before dropping off, but it will be long enough to possibly transfer a disease to your pet.

One of the most common hosts for a tick is the white-footed mouse which is the primary carrier of Lyme disease.

When a tick feeds on the white-footed mouse it becomes a carrier of Lyme disease and transfers the disease to a pet or human by feeding off them.

Because ticks can live for a while after feeding on your pet, it’s often better to immediately treat your dog for ticks if you feel there may be an issue.

How Long Do Ticks Live in A Car

Ticks will only live for about 24 hours or less inside a car. The environment is too dry for their bodies and they will eventually perish. If the environment is suitable, a tick will live for months inside a vehicle with a food source.

Just like inside your home, the car is too dry and doesn’t give a tick the moisture and humidity it needs to survive.

Although, some species don’t need humidity and can last for several months inside your vehicle.

Pro Tip: If you're afraid of ticks staying in your car, park your car in the sun for long periods of time. The extra heat should finish off any remaining survivors.

Also, make sure you’re removing any items that could foster a damp environment for ticks like used towels or gym bags.

How to Treat Tick Bites

Chances are, you probably won’t even recognize a tick bite when you get one.

The small arachnids are so tiny the bites are painless and only show minor symptoms.

You’ll see a slight change in your skin color and the area will be slightly raised where the bite took place.

In general, a tick needs to be attached to your body for at least 36 hours to transfer Lyme disease.

Other diseases, however, may only take a few hours or minutes to transfer.

Follow the advice below to understand the exact steps to take when treating a tick bite to prevent disease transfer.

Fully Remove the Tick

Using tweezers, grasp onto the tick at the closest point of contact with your skin.

It’s important to include the head with the tick while removing so grab the tick as close to the head as possible.

Use a steady and even pressure to pull upward without twisting or jerking the tick away from the skin.

If you do end up leaving the head and it stays inside your skin, there’s a chance disease could still spread.

Preserve the tick in a see-through baggie for future reference. If you end up needing medical care, having the tick can help doctors identify what disease you may have been infected with.

Clean the Bite Wound

After removing the tick, it’s important to clean and disinfect the area where the bite took place as well as your hands.

Wash your skin with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available. Use the same process to clean your hands.

You can also clean the area with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.

Further Prevention Steps

If you have a cold compress available, apply it to the bite for about 15 minutes to help soothe any pain and swelling.

The CDC doesn’t recommend taking antibiotics after a tick bite in order to prevent tickborne diseases, however, there are unique circumstances.

One dose of doxycycline has been shown to lower the risk of Lyme disease after a tick bite.

It’s best to consult a doctor from the area where the tick bite took place. They would know more information on how to treat it effectively.

Monitor the Bite

You might not show symptoms right away, but a tick bite could start to affect your health negatively for the next 30 days.

Watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Rash
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Joint swelling and pain
  • Muscle Pain

Don’t panic if you end up feeling the symptoms above. Most tick bites are treated without any long-term issues.

How to Prevent Tick Bites

Man walking on trail

The best way? Stay out of natural areas known for ticks. Of course, any outdoor enthusiast knows that recommendation is blasphemous.

Ticks have infested much of the natural areas all across the United States.

We know they live in bushy, wooded, or grassy areas. Avoid going in the long grass or off trails when camping.

It’s no coincidence that the time when humans and animals are most active, spring and summer, so are ticks.

One action to prevent ticks is to spray your clothing and camping gear with permethrin, DEET, or picaridin.

These chemicals repel, and even kill, ticks so they’ll protect you while outdoors.

It’ll help even more if you wear long clothing that covers your skin. Long pants with boots will help prevent hitchhiking ticks from attaching to your skin as you walk by.

FAQ

Will ticks wash off in the shower?

The water pressure from a shower will remove unattached ticks from your body and cause them to flow down the drain. The situation is also a good opportunity to check for any ticks that may have already attached to your body.

Can ticks crawl inside you?

Ticks are not capable of crawling inside of you and instead attach themselves to the surface in soft places like behind the ear or behind the knee. Fleas crawl under the skin and the two are often confused for one another.

Ticks Don’t Live Forever

Different species and life stages of a tick will determine how long it lives. Some only last a few months while others can take years to perish. It’s best to take action against ticks and get rid of them instead of waiting till they die out. Use the advice and steps in this article to give yourself the best chance at preventing disease from a tick.