The life of a Rocky Mountain Wood Tick is like a Greek tragedy - the structure preordained and absolute. The Creature must strive to enact her fate. The only question is whether she succeeds. I say 'she' because the stark beauty of the cycle is manifest only in the life of the female. (The male is a walk-on part).
Her life begins in the spring when she emerges as a larvae from a small brown egg, one of five to ten thousand laid by her mother just prior to her death the previous fall. She has no eyes. Throughout her life she will be blind. But her skin is photosensitive and she's hard-wired to set her course to the light, to move vertically towards the sun. Probably she will climb a blade of grass. There she waits to board any warm-blooded small animal that brushes against her in passing. From this host she takes her first blood meal.
The blood transforms her into a nymph. The nymph also seeks the sun, and a second blood meal, to change her into an adult lady tick.
A third time she seeks the sun. Stronger now, she will climb a tree if she can find one. This time she's out for big game - a deer, a dog, an elk, a man. She waits in suspended animation, conserving her energy, until she senses molecules of a chemical found only in the sweat of mammals. She drops, clinging to the fur, the hair, or the clothes with cunning little looks at the end of her legs.
Now she spends two maybe three days inspecting her host before she settles on the spot, the right vein, for her third and final blood meal. She inserts her mouth painlessly into the flesh and cement herself in by excretions from a gland in her face. Now she has her host on a steady intravenous feed of a sedative that also acts as a decoagulant. For a few days she feeds moderately while the animal becomes drowsy, losing motor coordination. Then her consort appears and copulates while she remains cemented in at her head. After insemination, he dies.
Now she increases her blood intake. Gorging ferociously she attainsˇ a hundred times her original weight. She looks like a grape. When she is fully engorged, she drops to the ground. Over the next month she will lay five to ten thousand small brown eggs. And then she will die.
Our lady tick completed her cycle in one summer. She is a success. Her sister was unsuccessful. She will winter over and try to complete the following year. If she fails again, she has one more chance in year three. Three stages, three blood meals, three chances, but no choices.
There is no question of free will.