In 2017, we were warned about the arrival of a new tick species in North America when numerous Asian long-horned ticks were found on an Icelandic sheep in New Jersey in 2017. Researchers believed that the tick found its way to the United States by way of migratory birds. Within months, the tick had spread to several states including Maryland, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania, spreading worry across the continent. This is because despite its alternate moniker, ‘cattle tick’ (the species is known to spread a disease called theileriosis to cows), the Asian long-horned tick is just as capable of infecting humans with a variety of tickborne diseases including Lyme disease.  

Unfortunately, tick scientists’ concerns were recently validated – in June 2019, news came out that last year, a man living in the New York area received the first documented bite from a long-horned tick in North America. Luckily, the man is reported to be in fine health and disease free. However, this does not mean that we can all breathe a sigh of relief, as health experts warn that in much of Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, the tick “is known to spread pathogens that can be lethal to humans and animals”. A number of human diseases have been detected in the long- horned tick, including but not limited to Lyme disease, Japanese spotted fever, and Powassan virus. Additionally, the man who was bit reported that he had not been in any wooded areas in the 30 days prior to the bite, having only spent time on he and his neighbours well-maintained lawns – areas believed to be relatively tick-free.

If this were not enough to raise concern, it has been found that female long-horned ticks are able to reproduce without the need for a male. Thomas Yuill, a retired patho-biologist at the University of Wisconsin, emphasizes that “one tick can crank out females in fairly large numbers”. Since a single female is capable of laying thousands of eggs at once, tick populations can grow exponentially in just a short matter of time. Fortunately, no special preventative measures are recommended to keep the long-horned tick from choosing you as its next bloodmeal – experts recommend using repellants, doing tick checks before and after going outdoors, and avoiding areas with long grass if possible.

Further research is required in order to determine the extent of the Asian long-horned ticks presence in North America. As of September 2018, the CDC has reported 53 confirmed findings of long-horned ticks. The species is currently believed to be localized to Eastern states, but could potentially spread in the future.