The Asian longhorned tick made its first U.S. appearance last year in New Jersey, and since then has done what ticks do – hitch rides to new locations.
This week, Maryland officials confirmed presence of the tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis) in that state, following a similar late-July announcement from Pennsylvania. The tick now is confirmed in eight states, including New Jersey, West Virginia, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and New York, in addition to Maryland and Pennsylvania. The jump from the Mid-Atlantic region to Arkansas demonstrates the ability of the parasites to spread and infest new territory.
In its native range in East Asia, the tick is a serious livestock pest known to carry human and animal pathogens. So far, testing has not indicated any human pathogens carried in the U.S. populations of longhorned ticks, but in other countries the pest is known to carry bacterial infections including babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, theileriosis and rickettsiosis, as well as some viral diseases including severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS).
In livestock, according to the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), the longhorn tick is an aggressive biter and frequently builds intense infestations on domestic hosts causing great stress, reduced growth and production, and exsanguination. TAHC also notes that the tick can reproduce parthenogenetically (without a male), meaning a single fed female tick can create a population.
The tick has not been found in Texas, but the TAHC has advised livestock producers and veterinarians to watch for the pest, especially since it has turned up in neighboring Arkansas. Texas and the TAHC currently are working to address the reappearance of cattle fever ticks, a pest that previously caused extensive damage in livestock herds, along its border with Mexico.
University of Arkansas Extension Entomologist Kelly Loftin, says that while the longhorned tick may be a new arrival to Arkansas, residents should not panic, but use the same precautions they would with the state’s other ticks. “I think the big concern right now is the unknown,” Loftin says. “We don’t know how it arrived in Arkansas, or how widespread it is. The longhorned tick is a big pest to cattle in some parts of the world, so of course that’s a concern here, along with the viral and bacterial pathogens it may transmit.”