Pest control lookout: Asian longhorned tick

Image courtesy the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A self-cloning tick previously unknown in the U.S. is being found in greater numbers in much of the eastern half of the country, and researchers are working hard to find new ways to understand and combat the invasive pest.

The Asian longhorned tick was first reported in the U.S. in 2017, after a sheep in New Jersey was found to be infested. Since then, it has been found on pets, livestock, wildlife and/or people in nine states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The tick is known to spread diseases that harm both humans and animals, including the deadly thrombocytopenia syndrome virus, which has a reported fatality rate of up to 15% in humans.

Though a widespread presence of the ticks could be harmful to both humans and livestock, experts advise us not to panic.

“People should not extrapolate that just because this tick carries a potentially serious virus in the Far East, that next year everyone here will have that same disease,” Lyme disease researcher Dr. John Aucott told Health. “We don’t want to connect dots that may never be connected in real life.”

Wait, you said ‘self-cloning?’

The Asian longhorned tick reproduces asexually, meaning unfertilized females can lay eggs and multiply without mating. This makes it possible for the species to spread rapidly.

The tick is native to China, Japan, the far east of Russia and the Korean peninsula. Apart from the U.S., it has spread in recent years to Australia, New Zealand and several other South Pacific islands.

It’s also almost identical to two other tick species: the rabbit tick and the bird tick. To help differentiate between the three, researchers from Rutgers University recently created a visual guide that identifies the tiny details that separate the species. Their hope is that the guide can be used in the next few years to accurately keep track of the Asian longhorned beetle, should it spread to more states.

The danger of ticks

Asian longhorned ticks may be worrisome, but more prevalent species of ticks in the U.S. are a greater concern to livestock producers and health experts. Health reports that in recent years, Lyme disease rates may have “skyrocketed” in all 50 states. Aucott confirms that Lyme disease rates have increased gradually over the past four decades.

Treating ourselves and our outdoor areas can protect our families and animals from tick bites. On your person, a repellent with 20% or more of DEET, picaridin or IR3535 can protect exposed skin, and products with 0.5% of the bug-killing agent permethrin can be used on clothing and gear such as boots, pants, socks and tents. A veterinarian can help find the best repellent treatment for animals at risk of tick bites, and they can be applied with sprayers or pour-on applicators.

For information on Neogen’s insect control solutions for livestock producers, see our website.

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