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Report Asian hardwood ticks to detect invasive pests

Threat to livestock…

Residents of west-central Illinois are advised to be aware of and report sightings

The invasive Asian wood tick was found for the first time in Illinois and can pose a health risk to people, animals and livestock. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

URBANA, Ill. – The invasive Asian wood tick, which can pose a health risk to people, animals and livestock, has been found for the first time in Illinois. Residents of west-central Illinois are encouraged to be aware of and report this new pest.

The Asian hardwood tick, Haemaphysalis longicornisis an invasive pest of concern to livestock production as severe infestations can affect livestock production. An Asian hardwood tick was found in Morgan County on April 12 during an Illinois Department of Public Health tick surveillance. Two more ticks were found on April 24, and after the species was confirmed by entomologists at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory, IDPH reported the sightings on May 6. Asian longhorn ticks were first confirmed in the United States in 2017, but they have likely been here longer and have been found in 19 other states.

Teresa Steckler, commercial cattle agriculture specialist with Illinois Extension, says Asian longhorn ticks have previously been found in large numbers on livestock, sheep and cattle, causing severe distress and, in some cases, death.

“Spring is a busy time for farmers and ranchers as they put their livestock out to pasture, but it is important that producers take some time to check for tick infestations,” Steckler said. “People need to be more vigilant and take preventive measures to protect their livestock, pets and themselves from tick bites.”

Asian longhorn ticks are light brown and very small, often smaller than a sesame seed. They are found in low-lying swampy areas, wooded areas and tall grasses. A female tick can lay up to 2,000 eggs without a male, meaning a female can create a new population.

If you spot a tick on an animal or person, remove it immediately with tweezers by grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pulling on it. Wash the affected area with soap and water.

Steckler said Asian longhorned ticks appear to be susceptible to chemical products commonly used to treat other ticks on cattle. Livestock producers should consult their veterinarian to develop an ectoparasite prevention plan. Mowing pastures and allowing livestock to be kept in forest areas where the tick has been found will also help reduce the number of attached ticks.

Report sightings of the tick to the Illinois Department of Agriculture at (217) 782-4944. Residents of Morgan County and surrounding counties can also help monitor the spread and population size of Asian longhorn ticks and other species by collecting ticks and submitting them by mail or to their local Illinois Extension office. Ticks should be stored in a sealed container with rubbing alcohol and marked with the date and location of collection. Send ticks in sealable plastic bags without alcohol to Teresa Steckler, 354 State HWY 145 N, Simpson, IL 62985. If the tick was removed from pets or livestock, please note whether and which animals were treated with an ectoparasiticide.

Contact a local Extension office at go.illinois.edu/ExtensionOffice. For more information and help identifying and submitting ticks, download a fact sheet at go.illinois.edu/ALTfactsheet. Learn more about ticks in Illinois at extension.illinois.edu/ticks.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources are monitoring the situation in collaboration with the USDA. IDPH, in collaboration with the Illinois Natural History Survey's medical entomology program, tracks the location of several tick species using its Illinois Tick Surveillance Map.

Non-native invasive species are plants, animals, and insects that spread quickly, cause ecological or economic damage, and are difficult to remove once established. Across the state, Illinois Extension staff and volunteers work with communities to identify potential invasions, remove invasive species and restore natural areas. Learn more about invasive species at go.illinois.edu/invasive.

— University of Illinois Extension

Anna Harden

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