The Asian Longhorned Tick Project
The Asian longhorned tick (ALT) is a menace to livestock, companion animals, and wildlife because it uses animals for dispersal and blood feeds on livestock causing an economic threat to agricultural industries. In native ranges, tick-infested livestock quickly become anemic as a severe infestation can kill the animal due to exsanguination; this was also reported on a New Jersey sheep operation and among bull-calves in North Carolina. Additionally, this tick is associated with bovine pathogens (Anaplasma and Babesia), canine pathogens (Babesia and Hepatozoon), equine pathogens (Babesia), and human pathogens (e.g., Borrelia, Ehrlichia, Rickettsia, and many viruses). Recently, it was associated with a Theileria outbreak in several cattle herds in Virginia. Since its original detection in the fall of 2017 in New Jersey, ALTs were confirmed in 12 states including Tennessee (a state also identified with more than 95% suitable habitat) and from at least 17 different host species. Unlike other North American ticks, this exotic and invasive tick has a univoltine life cycle and a parthenogenic reproductive cycle, which permits rapid population growth.
The need: Unfortunately, there are many gaps in our current understanding of ALTs in North America including phenology, dispersal, and blood-feeding effects (health, welfare, and economics including pathogen transmission). While we know this tick will be a problem, we lack the foundational, educational, and management information for those at risk (companion animals, livestock, and wildlife) and those stakeholder helping to solve the problem (Extension, veterinarians, and producers).
Our objectives are to expand surveillance efforts for this pest; to assess prevention, detection, and response strategies; and to develop educational materials as a first step in protecting animals from ALTs.