A new breed of tick is being found in the U.S. for which Iowans, especially cattle producers, need to be watchful.
Professor Grant Dewell, an Iowa State University Extension beef veterinarian, says it’s called the Asian longhorned tick but to see its tiny antennae which resemble horns, you’d need a powerful magnifying glass.
“It could potentially be here,” Dewell says. “It’s really hard to see, compared to other ticks. Most ticks we’re familiar with are the size of a pencil eraser or something like that. This Asian longhorned tick is about the size of a sesame seed.”
The tick is native to East Asia and it is spreading across the United States. It’s been identified as far east as Arkansas and as far north as New York. “It’s something that we could easily miss if it was here, if we’re not really paying attention to it,” Dewell says. “As much as we move cattle nowadays, where cattle are moved all over the U.S., somebody sure could have imported a breeding animal from the East Coast and brought (the tick) here, so it’s just something we need to keep an eye on.”
Lyme disease and anaplasmosis are associated with most ticks. Dewell says the Asian longhorned ticks may carry those and other blood-borne diseases that are not common in the U.S. People should be aware of the risks, but he says cattle producers need to be vigilant for this tiny-but-dangerous insect.
“They tend to target livestock. They will attach to people if given the opportunity but they don’t target people,” Dewell says. “Like most ticks, whatever you offer them, but they tend to focus on livestock. They’re typically in tall grass and brushy areas where they can easily move from that forage onto the host.”
A single Asian longhorned tick female can essentially start a new tick population on her own, as Dewell says she can lay up to 2,000 eggs without ever finding a mate. That’s why he says identifying new infestations and preventing the spread is essential.
If you think you’ve found one, contact the Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic at Iowa State University.