By Caroline Durham
Warmer weather is just around the corner, bringing us green leaves, fresh flowers, and… a new invasive tick species. The Asian longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis) was first discovered in the United States in August of 2017 on a sheep in western New Jersey. Since then, it has been found on people, livestock, domestic animals, and wildlife in eight other states (Arkansas, Connecticut, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia).
The Asian longhorned tick is native to eastern Asia and is now established in Australia and New Zealand. In those countries, the tick has been a vector for several dangerous viruses and illnesses. So far, there is no evidence that the tick has spread disease to its hosts within the United States, but health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are concerned that it will quickly adapt to be a vector for viruses and tick-borne illnesses already present in the United States.
In contrast to most tick species, a single female Asian longhorned tick can lay up to 2,000 eggs without a mate. As a result, hundreds to thousands of ticks can be found on a single person, animal, or within the environment. In other parts of the world, the loss of blood caused by these ticks is a serious threat to livestock. In some areas of Australia and New Zealand, this tick has reduced milk production by 25%.
The first Asian longhorned tick in North Carolina was found in Polk County on an opossum in July of 2018. The CDC and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are working to understand how widespread the ticks have become and monitoring for diseases they may potentially spread. As temperatures rise, it will be important to monitor pets, livestock, and yourself for ticks. The CDC offers these tips to protect against tickborne diseases:
Use insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), or 2-undecanone.
Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin. TLC Staff uses InsectShield to protect our clothing! Learn more at
Check your body and clothing for ticks.
Shower soon after being outdoors.
For more tick information or tick identification, contact your county NC State Extension office: