Ask the County Agent: What about the new, invasive tick here in Georgia?

Pictured above: Longhorned Ticks are small. The adult on the left is only 1/8th inch long, while the immature tick on the right would not cover the ‘D’ on the dime included for size comparison. Photo by Rutgers Center for Vector Biology.

By STEPHANIE BUTCHER, Coweta County Extension Coordinator

QUESTION: I have heard there is a new, invasive tick in Georgia. Should I be concerned?

AGENT: Ticks are always a concern in the Southeast. Among other things, they can be carriers for Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Alpha-gal, the red meat allergy that is caused by ticks.

The Asian Longhorned Tick is native to Eastern Asia and was confirmed to be in the United States in 2017. A few weeks ago, the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) Animal Health Division confirmed the presence of the Asian Longhorned Tick on a cow in Pickens County, Georgia, so it is in our state, and we should be on the lookout for it.

So why is this tick of particular concern?

  • They are not native to North America. That means there are no natural controls here to keep them in check – no predators or parasites to suppress their numbers. Also, our animals have not developed any natural resistance to them, so it is anticipated to thrive on both wildlife and livestock.
  • Females can reproduce without mating. This means that a single female transmitted into a new area can start a new population, indicating that infestations can readily spread. Since each female produces over 2,000 eggs, populations can rapidly explode.
  • They do well on a variety of hosts, wildlife as well as livestock. They are likely to thrive on white-tailed deer and easily spread to livestock. They readily feed on small ruminants, horses, dogs, cats, humans and several common wildlife species.
  • These ticks are tolerant of a wide range of environmental conditions, but will flourish in the Southeast, which has a climate similar to its native range. It is known to successfully overwinter in New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia, so will probably be active year-round in Georgia. 
  • They can transmit several animal and human pathogens, and they feed in especially large numbers, which can cause anemia, particularly in young animals. 

Unfortunately, this invader looks like many of our native ticks, small and brown before it feeds, then swollen and gray after it feeds. So what can you look for? Extremely high numbers of ticks per animal can be a tale-tale sign because each tick can produce over 2,000 eggs. Longhorned Tick populations expand rapidly and frequently exceed hundreds per animal. If you find a large number of ticks on an individual animal, call your veterinarian and report it to the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Animal Health office at 404-656-3667.

For more information about controlling ticks, contact UGA Cooperative Extension in Coweta County at 770-254-2620 or [email protected]

“The University of Georgia College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences is an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, Veteran, Disability Institution.”

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