The Asian longhorned tick, scientifically named Haemaphysalis longicornis, is indigenous to Asia. Native to China, Japan, East Russia, and Korea, it then was introduced to and became established in Oceania (Western Pacific) where it is considered an exotic species.
Hitching a Ride to North America
However, in the last few years, scientists have found an established presence in at least the eastern part of the U.S. and is potentially a disease vector for both humans and animals. Its first detection inside the U.S. was a non-imported sheep in New Jersey during the fall of 2017. A few months later, in the spring of 2018, the Asian longhorned tick was found in more counties within New Jersey as well as in seven other states.
By the end of 2018, the Asian longhorned tick was identified in Arkansas, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. These ticks were found on animals, both domestic and wild, as well as humans.
What Do the Experts Say?
An article from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the Asian longhorned tick is a,
“[N]ew and emerging disease threat.”(C. Beard et al., Multistate Infestation with the Exotic Disease–Vector Tick Haemaphysalis longicornis, CDC, 11/30/2018)
Penn State Extension writes,
“The Asian longhorned tick now is likely to be established in the United States and should be considered an invasive pest.”(E. Machtinger and M. Skvarla, Asian Longhorned Tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis, PennState Extension, 8/2/18)
As with most ticks, the Asian longhorned tick has three stages of its life cycle where a new host is bitten. The larvae typically bite a host during the early summer, then drop off, overwinter, and then molt into the nymph stage. At this point the nymph chooses a new host in the spring and feeds until it drops off and molts into an adult. The adult then picks its final host in mid-summer and feeds. Once full, adults will drop off of the host for a final time. Females will then produce up to 2,000 eggs over a couple of weeks. Scarier still is that populations of the tick can consist of only females and still be able to reproduce without males present, effectively asexually cloning themselves.
Potential Human Health Issues
Disease-causing microorganisms that are carried by the Asian longhorned tick in their native regions are to blame for medical conditions in humans around the world, such as: severe fever and thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (human hemorrhagic fever), Borrelia (Lyme disease), Rickettsiales (Japanese spotted fever, anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis), as well as Heartland and Powassan viruses.
“’The full public health and agricultural impact of this tick discovery and spread is unknown,’ said Ben Beard, PhD, lead author of the MMWR study and deputy director of CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, in the CDC release.
(S. Soucheray, CDC: Worrisome longhorn tick spreading rapidly in the US, CIDRAP U. of Minnesota, 11/20/2018)
In other parts of the world, the Asian longhorned tick can transmit many types of pathogens common in the United States. We are concerned that this tick, which can cause massive infestations on animals, on people, and in the environment, is spreading in the United States.’”
Pet Owners and Veterinarians Need to Watch Out Also
Studies have also shown that the Asian longhorned tick carries the protozoa that causes the disease bovine theileriosis. This is hard-hitting news for the agricultural industry because, in Australia and New Zealand, where the tick has been established for a much longer time period, milk production in dairy cattle has been seen to decrease by 25% from the disease.
It not only has a potential to cause losses to farms but it may also hold risks for other domesticated animals, including pets.
“[The Asian longhorned tick] can commonly be found infesting dogs, cats, livestock, and wildlife, and should continue recommending year-round tick prevention for all pets and routine monitoring for tick-borne infections.”(K Duncan et al., Haemaphysalis longicornis, the Asian longhorned tick, from a dog in Virginia, USA, Veterinar Parasitology: Regional Studies and Reports, Vol. 20, 04/2020)
While this new tick on the block is nothing to scoff at, there are measures you can take to prevent a lot of unnecessary exposure to the Asian longhorned tick and the potential tick-borne diseases that it may carry. Specifically, TriOrganic’s Adaptive™ Programs make adjustments based on data from analyzing variables such as the local environment and weather to life cycles of plants and insects. Your lawn is able to be treated how you want, with application options like full organic, hybrid and traditional.