How Long Can Ticks Live Without a Host?

Written by Volia Schubiger
Published: November 1, 2022
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The tick is an arachnid, like the spider and scorpion, but it is much smaller. A deer tick, for instance, is about the size of a pinhead when it isn’t fully fed. These tiny little critters, however, can cause huge problems despite their small size. Their ability to transmit serious illnesses can make them harmful to humans as well as animals. Ticks are parasites because they get nutrients by feeding on their hosts, often injuring them in the process. The longevity of ticks is one of the many misconceptions surrounding them. Depending on the source, ticks can live for up to two years without food, while others say they can live for only 24 hours or one full day. Could both of these be true? Would you believe us if we said yes?

Let’s take a look at how long ticks can live without a host and other fascinating facts about them. They can survive for quite some time without feeding, which may surprise you.

How Long Can Ticks Live Without a Host?

So how long can ticks live without a host? The survival of some tick species depends on feeding right away. In some cases, they may be able to survive without feeding for a longer period of time. Each stage of a tick’s lifecycle involves attachment to a different host, from larvae to nymphs to adults. Based on what stage of their life they are in, each species of tick has a different survival rate. Let’s look at the most common species of tick and what their survival rate looks like without a host to feed off. 

American Dog Tick

American Dog Tick sitting on a green leaf waiting for a host.

The American dog tick can live almost 3 years without feeding.


You’d be surprised at how long an American dog tick can survive without feeding! It has been found that larvae that are not fed are able to survive for up to 540 days, while unfed nymphs have been known to survive for up to 584 days! An even greater accomplishment is that adult American dog ticks that have never eaten can survive without food for up to 1,053 days. That’s roughly 2 – 3 years without eating. 

Brown Dog Tick 

Close-up of brown dog tick crawling on human skin.

The brown dog tick nymph can live almost three months without a host.


It is estimated that brown dog ticks lay between 1,000 and 3,000 tiny, dark brown eggs each year. It is possible for larvae to survive without food or water for as long as eight months after hatching from an egg. During the nymph stage of their lives, brown dog ticks can go three months without establishing a connection with a host. Although brown dog ticks typically feed on hosts as soon as possible, they can go 18 months without feeding!

Blacklegged Tick

An adult female deer tick crawling on a piece of straw.

Deer ticks can only live a few months without a host.

©Steven Ellingson/

The blacklegged tick is also referred to as the deer tick because it feeds on white-tailed deer as an adult. Typically, these ticks feed once while they are larvae, usually from June through September. In the absence of food, deer tick larvae usually live less than a year. When deer ticks are nymphs, summer is their feeding season. Despite this, some nymphs can survive two more seasons without a meal if they do not feed during their first season! In autumn, the deer tick matures into an adult and attaches to a host for the remainder of the year. The lifespan of an adult is just under a year when they do not feed during that time period.

Lone Star Tick

Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum) on a white background.

Lone star ticks can go 430 days without having a host meal!


Approximately 3,000 – 5,000 eggs are laid by female lone star ticks every year. It is possible for these larvae to go without a host for up to 279 days after hatching. It is possible for an adult lone star tick to go for up to 430 days without a blood meal once they have matured from larvae to nymphs.

Wood Tick

Close-up of wood tick on human skin.

The wood tick lives almost a year and a half without a blood meal.


In a similar manner to the lone star tick, wood ticks lay between 3,000 and 5,000 eggs at a time. It typically takes 7 to 38 days for the eggs to hatch, then the larvae will attach to any nearby host. Some can go up to 117 days without attaching! However, most need a host within 30 days. It is possible for wood ticks to survive without food for more than 300 days after they molt into nymphs. Their lifespan as adults can exceed 600 days without a host.

How Long Do Ticks Live On Clothing?

What to do about ticks that are found on your clothing is one of the most common questions that people have. If you’re wondering how long they live and how to get rid of them on your clothing then you’re not alone. It is common for ticks to live on clothes for two to three days. They can remain on clothes for at least 24 hours. You should check all areas of your clothing for ticks, including the folds, collars, and cuffs. It is not possible for ticks to bury themselves in clothing. After attaching themselves to the surface, they remain there until another opportunity arises for feeding.

In order to kill the ticks, your best method of action is to immediately throw them in the dryer in a high-heat setting. This is because ticks have been known to survive washers but will die in the high heat of a dryer. 

How Do Ticks Find A Host?

It is the tick’s nature to be patient. Unlike birds and other animals, ticks cannot fly or jump. Their method of finding a host is to perch in low vegetation and wait for a host to brush past them. This method is called questing. Ticks usually crawl onto shoes or socks when they first attempt to bite humans. As soon as they’re on your body, they start crawling around looking for exposed skin. In order to make themselves harder to spot, they frequently choose areas that have thick hair, such as the head and underarms. The hypostomes, which are like fish hooks that pierce the skin, are used by ticks to attach themselves to their hosts and fill themselves with blood. Through the secretion of cementing material, the tick is able to cling to the host and maintain its presence. 

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Afanasiev Andrii/

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About the Author

Volia Schubiger is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

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