Asian Tick Found in N.E. Poses Threat to Livestock

By ecoRI News staff

An adult longhorned tick. Photo is enlarged, not to scale. (APHIS Veterinary Services)

An adult longhorned tick. Photo is enlarged, not to scale. (APHIS Veterinary Services)

The longhorned tick, native to China, Japan, Russia, and Korea, was recently found for the first time in New England, according to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM). Animal health experts say the longhorned tick poses a serious risk to the region’s livestock.

Working in cooperation with the Animal and Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, DEM is asking livestock producers and wildlife rehabilitators to observe animals for the presence of the tick, which is also known as the bush tick, cattle tick, and Asian tick.

The longhorned tick poses a risk to New England livestock because it can attach itself to various warm-blooded animals to feed. If too many ticks attach to one animal, the loss of blood can kill the animal. The ticks also can impact wildlife, hunters, and their dogs, and spread a variety of diseases, according to DEM.

Dark brown in color, the adult longhorned tick grows to the size of a pea when it’s engorged with blood. The other life stage of the tick, such as larva and nymph, are very small and difficult to see with the naked eye.

The longhorned tick was detected in Connecticut this fall, marking the first finding of the pest in New England. It also has been confirmed in Arkansas, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. The longhorned tick is considered a serious threat to livestock in Australia, New Zealand, and countries of eastern Asia.

In late 2017, animal health experts identified a longhorned tick on a sheep in Hunterdon County, a western New Jersey county bordering Pennsylvania about 35 miles from Trenton. After this finding, officials began examining how and when the tick arrived in the United States. They re-examined tick samples from past years and confirmed a longhorned tick from a sample collected in West Virginia in 2010. Authorities still are investigating exactly how the longhorned tick entered the country. Possible scenarios include being carried by domestic pets, horses, livestock, or humans.

If a suspected longhorned tick is found on persons, pets, horses, livestock, or hunter-harvested deer, the public is asked to collect the tick for animal health officials to identify, as follows:

Place the tick in a snack or sandwich-size baggie along with a small stamp-size piece of moistened tissue paper and seal it. Do not use tape to secure the tick.

Call the state veterinarian’s office at 401-222-2781 or the New England APHIS Veterinary Services office at 508-363-2290.