Agricultural officials this week confirmed the presence of the Longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis) in Benton County, Arkansas, increasing to four the number of states with confirmed sightings of the exotic Asian pest. The tick was first identified in New Jersey late last year, and since has been confirmed in Virginia, West Virginia and Arkansas.
The tick can carry a wide variety of human and animal pathogens, and as evidenced by its jump from the Mid-Atlantic region to Arkansas, has the ability to spread.
According to the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), the Longhorn Tick is an aggressive biter and frequently builds intense infestations on domestic hosts causing great stress, reduced growth and production, and exsanguination. It is also a known or suspected vector of several viral, bacterial and protozoan agents of livestock and human diseases.
TAHC also notes that the tick can reproduce parthenogenetically (without a male), meaning a single fed female tick can create a population.
The tick has not been found in Texas, but the TAHC has advised livestock producers and veterinarians to watch for the pest, especially since it has turned up in neighboring Arkansas. Texas and the TAHC currently are working to address the reappearance of cattle fever ticks, a pest that previously caused extensive damage in livestock herds, along its border with Mexico.
University of Arkansas Extension Entomologist Kelly Loftin, says that while the Longhorned tick may be a new arrival to Arkansas, residents should not panic, but use the same precautions they would with the state’s other ticks. “I think the big concern right now is the unknown,” Loftin says. “We don’t know how it arrived in Arkansas, or how widespread it is. The Longhorned is a big pest to cattle in some parts of the world, so of course that’s a concern here, along with the viral and bacterial pathogens it may transmit.”
And while the tick should certainly be taken seriously, the Longhorned tick doesn’t necessarily present any new challenges to the state’s human or animal populations, Loftin says. “There’s a fear that it could transmit the Powassan virus, various other pathogens, possibly Anaplasma spp., and so on.” he says. “But we already have ticks capable of transmitting these pathogens.”