Tick that can clone itself is found on cattle in Southern Ky. and wildlife in Eastern Ky.; it’s also a threat to pets, and hard to identify

Asian longhorned tick (Photo by Anna Pasternak, UK)

By Katie Pratt
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

The Asian longhorned tick, which preys on a variety of hosts including humans and wild and domestic animals, has been found in Kentucky. This new tick is known to attack animals in large numbers and will be a concern to livestock producers, wildlife enthusiasts and pet owners.

“This tick is an aggressive biter and frequently builds intense infestations on domestic hosts that can cause stress, reduced growth and severe blood loss,” said Jonathan Larson, UK extension entomologist. “One reason for their rapid buildup 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.”

The tick has been found in small numbers on elk in Martin County and black bear in Floyd County. It was found in large numbers on a bull in Metcalfe County in the south-central part of the state.

“The Metcalfe County ticks were submitted by a veterinarian who answered a call about a bull so infested that it was showing signs of severe fatigue,” said Anna Pasternak, UK entomology graduate student who manages the Kentucky Tick Surveillance Program. Pasternak and Monica Cipriani, a student in the UK College of Public Health, sampled the Metcalfe County field and found more Asian longhorned ticks.

Metcalfe County (Wikipedia map)

“The Metcalfe County finding is particularly troubling,” Pasternak said. “It means the tick may have already spread farther across the state.”

The tick was found in the U.S. in 2017. It has also been confirmed in Arkansas, Tennessee, the Carolinas, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

In addition to wildlife, the asian longhorned tick preys on cats, dogs, horses and chickens. Humans also are a host. It is a known or suspected vector of several important livestock viral, bacterial and protozoan agents. Scientists are conducting tests on ticks collected in the United States, and it is likely that some ticks will contain germs that can be harmful to animals.

The tick is hard to identify because it has no distinctive markings and unfed adults are smaller than other common adult ticks in Kentucky.

If you find an unusually large number of ticks on a pet or livestock, contact a veterinarian. If you think a tick might be an Asian longhorned tick, work with your county extension agent for agriculture and natural resources to submit the sample to UK entomologists for positive identification.

Ticks are a bigger problem than they once were, Kentucky Health News reported recently. UK has information on tick-bite prevention and removal at https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef618 and at county offices of the Cooperative Extension Service.

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