The insect was first confirmed in the Bluegrass State from a single specimen found on an elk in Martin County in 2018. It is believed the species has continued its westward march since then, and could now be knocking on Ohio’s door.
The tick, the Asian longhorned tick (or Haemaphysalis longicornis), has the potential to transmit an assortment of nasty diseases to humans, including an emerging virus that kills up to 30 percent of victims. So far, the tick hasn’t been found carrying any diseases in the US. It currently poses the largest threat to livestock, pets, and wild animals; the ticks can attack en masse and drain young animals of blood so quickly that they die—an execution method called exsanguination.
Key to the tick’s explosive spread and bloody blitzes is that its invasive populations tend to reproduce asexually—that is, without mating. Females drop up to 2,000 eggs over the course of two or three weeks, quickly giving rise to a ravenous army of clones. In one US population studied so far, experts encountered a massive swarm of the ticks in a single paddock, totaling well into the thousands. They speculated that the population might have a ratio of about one male to 400 females.
What we know about Asian longhorned ticks
- Not normally found in the Western Hemisphere, these ticks were reported for the first time in the United States in 2017.
- Asian longhorned ticks have been found on pets, livestock, wildlife, and people.
- The female ticks can lay eggs and reproduce without mating.
- Up to thousands of ticks may be found at a time, or on an animal.
What we know about Asian longhorned ticks in the U.S.
- In other countries, bites from these ticks can make people and animals seriously ill. As of March 25, 2019, no harmful germs have been found in the ticks collected in the United States. Research is ongoing.
- Researchers are looking for these ticks to find out where they live.
- As of March 25, 2019, longhorned ticks have been found in Ark., Conn., Md., N.C., N.J., N.Y., Pa., Va., W.Va.
What you should do if you think you have found an Asian longhorned tick
- Remove any tick from people and animals as quickly as possible.
- Save the ticks in rubbing alcohol in a jar or a ziplock bag, then:
- Contact your health department about steps you can take to prevent tick bites and tickborne diseases.
- Contact a veterinarian for information about how to protect pets from ticks and tick bites.
- Contact your state agriculture department or local agricultural extension office about ticks on livestock or for tick identification.