Asian longhorned tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis, has been confirmed in three counties in Kentucky, Floyd, Martin, and Metcalfe Counties. The samples were found on a black bear, elk, and cattle, respectively.
In Metcalfe County the cow was reported to have hundreds of this tick. This is an exotic tick native to China, Korea, and Japan. It has spread to Australia and New Zealand as well, where it feeds on a variety of wild and domestic animals and humans.
The Asian longhorned tick has only recently (2017) established populations in the United States. Thus far it has been confirmed in Arkansas, Delaware, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
It is a known serious pest to livestock, pets, and humans. Reported hosts include cattle, deer, raccoon, opossum, cat, coyote, elk, fox, sheep goat, groundhog, horse, black bear, Canada goose, chicken, cottontail, red-tailed hawk, and skunk.
Asian longhorned ticks are small, reddish brown ticks with no distinctive markings to aid in quick recognition. The unfed adults are smaller (3 to 4 mm long) than the other adult hard ticks that we commonly encounter (such as Lonestar ticks and black legged deer ticks).
This species is capable of disease transmission, though the pathogens associated with it in its native range have not been found in the US. However, recent laboratory research indicates this species could be a competent vector for spotted fever rickettsia, a disease we have seen increased incidences of in this state. However, we do not yet know if these ticks are able to pass these germs in nature.
This species is an aggressive biter and frequently builds intense infestations on domestic hosts that can cause stress, reduced growth, and severe blood loss. One reason for their rapid buildup on hosts is that the female ticks can lay eggs without mating. It only takes a single fed female tick to create a population of ticks.
Potentially, thousands can be found on an animal. It is also a known/suspected vector of several viral, bacterial, and protozoan agents of livestock importance. There is ongoing testing of ticks collected in the United States and it is likely that some ticks will contain germs that can be harmful to animals.
You should protect yourself from tick bites when in tick habitat. Personal protective measures such as the use of EPA-approved insect repellents and 0.5% permethrin-treated clothing are effective against Asian longhorned ticks. Wearing light colored clothing, tucking your pants into your socks and checking yourself frequently helps to spot ticks before they have a chance to attach.
If you have questions or concerns feel free to contact the Pulaski County Extension Office at 606-679-6361.