Welcome to the fourth edition of ‘Captain Stan’s Creature Features,’ where we are looking at some of the more interesting animals in the pest management universe. This month, the star of the show is the Asian longhorned tick (ALT), an invasive species relatively new to the United States. Some interesting facts follow:
- Ticks, like insects, are members of the phylum Arthropoda (meaning ‘jointed legs’) but they are in a separate class, Arachnida, not Insecta. The scientific name of the ALT is Haemaphysalis longicornis.
- They were first detected in the United States in 2017 on a farm in New Jersey. As of September 2021, they had spread to 16 other states including Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
- Scientists are still studying the ALT to determine host preferences for feeding, preferred habitats (woodland vs. open areas), and other key biological factors.
- ALTs have been found on pets, livestock, wildlife, and humans. Thousands at a time may be found on grass, shrubs, or animals.
- Female ALTs can lay eggs and reproduce without mating, a condition known as ‘parthenogenesis.’ This is a highly successful survival mechanism as well as a great method of dispersion; a single female can be transported to a new location and start a new population!
- The ALT appears to be less attracted to human skin/odors than some of our common native species such as the blacklegged tick, the Lone star tick, and the American dog tick.
- In other countries, germs spread by the ALT can make people and animals seriously ill. Research on this is ongoing in the United States; one recent study suggested that it is not likely to be involved in spreading the spirochetes that cause Lyme disease. It is likely that these ticks will be found naturally infected with pathogens in the United States but that does not necessarily mean that those pathogens can be transmitted to humans and/or animals. That will require substantial laboratory testing.