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Invasive tick is ‘here to stay’ and here is where it could spread next

A map showing the potential range of the Asian longhorned check (<em>Haemaphysalis longicornis</em>) in North America, according to a new study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.
(Ilia Rochlin, D. Ph., Rutgers University Center for Vector Biology)

An invasive tick species, new for the U.S., has already turned up in nine states, and a new study suggests that the species could spread much further.

This tick is called the Asian longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis), is originating from Asia and was first identified in the U.S. in 2017, when it is found on a sheep in New Jersey. Since then, the tick has been detected in eight other states: New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But the new research, published today (Dec. 13) in the Journal of Medical Entomology, suggests that the tick can spread a large part of the eastern U.S., and parts of the Midwest, as well as a small portion of the Pacific Northwest.

Researchers used climate data from the tick’s native habitat, including parts of China, Japan and Korea, to predict where the tick can spread in North America. Then, they created a statistical model to determine habitats that were likely to be suitable for the tick. [5 Things to Know About the New tick Species in the USA]

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The study found that much of the eastern US coast was suitable for the longhorned tick, with areas such as northern Maine and as far south as northern Florida predicted to be at least moderately suitable. The tick can also be displayed on the Coast of the Gulf states as far west as Louisiana, as well as in Central and south-eastern states, including Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. A small part of the Washington, Oregon and Northern California coast was also very suitable for H. longicornis, the study found.

“The Asian longhorned tick is a very flexible species,” study author Ilia Rochlin, an entomologist and researcher at Rutgers University ‘ s Center for Vector Biology in New Jersey, said in a statement. “The optimal tick habitat seems to be determined by the temperate conditions — moderate temperature, humidity and rainfall.”

Indeed, the suitability of other areas outside the predicted regions was limited as a result of the warmer temperatures in parts of the south and the cold temperatures in the north and a dry climate in the west, the study said.

In the last month, the CDC announced that it is working with experts in veterinary medicine, agricultural sciences and public health to better understand the potential impact of the longhorned tick in the US

One concern is that this tick a threat to livestock. In contrast to most of the tick species, longhorned character can reproduce asexually and lay huge numbers of eggs. A single female longhorn tick can lay up to 2000 eggs at a time, the CDC said. Due to these large numbers, longhorned ticks can be serious pests in the livestock sector, which lead to weakness, anemia or even death of the animals.

There is also concern that the tick can spread diseases, as it does in other parts of the world. But until now, no cases of illness tied to this character have been reported in the U.S., according to the CDC.

Unfortunately, now that the tick has arrived in the united states, it is probably here to stay, Rochlin said. The longhorned check “it will be difficult to impossible to eradicate” the ecological adaptability and the ability to reproduce asexually, Rochlin wrote in his newspaper.

But studies such as this can alert public health officials and veterinary experts on the question of whether they are in a moderate or high risk of the tick to live.

“Hopefully, this awareness will lead to increased surveillance and the extensive public outreach and education,” Rochlin said.

He noted that the model was intended to determine the potential tick habitat on a large scale, but not where the sign could be at the local level, such as the specific provinces is in danger. To determine that, “we need to learn more about these tick species of the biology, the ecology and local distribution,” Rochlin said.

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Originally published on Live Science.

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