We develop an optimality model based on classical epidemiological models to investigate the optimal time to patency in parasitic nematodes in relation to host mortality and parasite mortality. We found that the optimal time to patency depends on both host longevity and prepatent mortality of nematodes. We tested our models using a comparative analysis of the relationships between nematode time to patency, nematode mortality and host mortality. Although we confirmed the importance of prepatent mortality, we also found a significant positive influence of host mortality. Host mortality rate affects parasite survivorship and life history strategies in the same way that habitat-specific mortality regimes drive the evolution of life histories in free-living organisms.