Bothriocroton hydrosauri is a three-host ixodid tick that infests large reptiles in southeastern Australia, where its most common host is a large scincid lizard Tiliqua rugosa. Based on previous ecological and behavioural studies of this system, we propose a ‘ripple’ model of tick population dynamics, where only a few female ticks succeed in producing surviving offspring. These females then are the centres of ripples of their progeny spreading into the broader landscape. The model predicts higher relatedness among larvae than among nymphs or adults on a host, and significant spatial autocorrelation in larvae extending further than for the later life stages. The model also predicts that adult ticks are likely to encounter related partners and that this will generate inbreeding within the population. We tested those predictions using nine polymorphic microsatellite loci on a sample of 848 ticks (464 larvae, 140 nymphs and 244 adults) collected from 98 lizard hosts from near Bundey Bore Station in South Australia. Our data support the predictions and indicate that the dynamics of transmission among hosts play an important role in parasite population structure.