The Asian longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis) was found in New Jersey for the first time ever in November of 2017, attached to a sheep from a farm. Further research revealed that these ticks have likely been living in the United States since 2010. While it's unknown how exactly Asian longhorned ticks (or ALTs) arrived in the U.S., this invasive species can carry some diseases transmittable to humans and animals overseas.
What Do Asian Longhorned Ticks Look Like?
Asian longhorned ticks are small ticks that can range in size from a poppy seed when unfed to the size of a pea when fed and engorged with blood. They are mostly reddish-brown when unfed and turn gray once engorged. ALTs have short, wide mouthpieces, unlike many other tick species that have long, skinny mouthpieces.
Where Did Asian Longhorned Ticks Come From?
Asian longhorned ticks are originally from areas in Eastern and Southeast Asia, including countries like China, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand. They have also spread to other regions of the globe, such as Australia, New Zealand, multiple Pacific Islands, and the United States.
Where Are Asian Longhorned Ticks Found in the United States?
Asian longhorned ticks have been found mostly in the Eastern United States. The states with the most counties reporting ALT sightings include:
- West Virginia
- North Carolina
- New York
- New Jersey
ALTs have also been spotted in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
In What New Jersey Counties Have Asian Longhorned Ticks Been Found?
As of July 2020, Asian longhorned ticks have been found in at least nine New Jersey counties:
Studies show that the ticks are spreading mainly via animals, including roaming wildlife and transported livestock and pets.
What Diseases Do Asian Longhorned Ticks Spread in the United States?
At this time, research is still ongoing to see what kind of threats Asian longhorned ticks present in the United States. Overseas, ALTs can spread diseases that can make humans and animals severely sick. For instance, ALTs in other countries can spread babesiosis and bovine theileriosis to cattle and other livestock.
On a positive note, a recent study showed that Asian longhorned ticks are unlikely to become vectors for Lyme disease bacteria in the United States. Also, while a lab study showed that ALTs can carry and spread the bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever, no ALTs have been found carrying this bacteria beyond a lab setting (out in nature).
That being said, a heavy infestation of ticks on an animal (especially baby animals) can result in heavy blood loss. You should take the same basic precautions against Asian longhorned ticks that you do with other ticks:
- Get your pets preventative treatments from your veterinarian.
- Avoid walking through shrubs and tall grass.
- Use EPA-approved insect repellents on your body, clothes, and camping gear.
Tick Control in NJ
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