An invasive species of tick known as the Asian longhorned tick has been rapidly spreading across Ohio, posing a significant threat to livestock. Researchers from The Ohio State University have found that these ticks, which initially arrived in 2021, are responsible for the deaths of three cattle due to severe blood loss.
The scientists at Ohio State University are now focusing their efforts on monitoring and managing these pests. Unfortunately, they predict that the ticks will soon spread to every corner of Ohio, creating a long-term management problem. Risa Pesapane, senior author of the research, emphasizes that there is no getting rid of them completely.
The good news is that most existing tick control agents seem to effectively kill the Asian longhorned ticks. However, managing their population is challenging due to their sheer numbers and ability to bounce back easily.
Originating from East Asia, the Asian longhorned tick was first confirmed in the United States back in 2017. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests that these ticks might have been present as early as 2010. As of September 2023, the USDA has reported confirmations of these ticks in 18 states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, and New York.
Unlike native ticks, the Asian longhorned ticks tend to gather in large numbers, with thousands often found in grass, shrubs, or on animals. What makes them particularly concerning is their unique ability to reproduce asexually, making exponential population growth possible. Each female tick can lay up to 2,000 eggs, and all offspring can reproduce in the same manner.
While the Asian longhorned ticks appear to be less attracted to humans than other tick species, they show a preference for livestock and wildlife. Cattle, deer, horses, goats, opossums, raccoons, and mice are among the animals that these ticks favor. Additionally, the ticks have been found on birds such as owls and hawks.
In Ohio, the first Asian longhorned tick was discovered on a stray dog on a farm in Gallia County in 2020. Further investigation revealed an alarming estimate of over 1 million ticks in a 25-acre pasture, as nearly 10,000 ticks were collected in a short period from the infested farm.
Researchers in Ohio have also identified the tick-borne illness Anaplasma phagocytophilum in a small number of these ticks. This illness can cause diseases in animals and humans. Furthermore, the ticks have been linked to cases of bovine theileriosis, a disease caused by a pathogen carried by the ticks.
In contrast to some other tick species, a recent study has shown that the Asian longhorned tick is not likely to contribute to the spread of Lyme disease in the United States.
The invasion of Asian longhorned ticks in Ohio is a significant concern for the agricultural community. The researchers at The Ohio State University are working diligently to manage the situation, but the widespread presence of these ticks throughout the state presents a long-term challenge. Efforts to control their population and mitigate the risks associated with their presence continue as scientists strive to protect Ohio’s livestock and public health.