(WSPA) – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control recently identified a large and population of Asian longhorned ticks in South Carolina.

The department warns that bites from these ticks can cause severe illness in both people and animals.

DHEC reported they have identified these ticks at a cattle farm in York County. The latest infestation was discovered through the state’s tick surveillance program.

The program is a partnership between DHEC, the University of South Carolina and Clemson.

Dr. Melissa Nolan is the Director of UofSC Laboratory of Vector-Borne & Zoonotic Diseases and an assistant professor of epidemiology. She said female Asian longhorned ticks can lay up to 2000 eggs without mating.

Asian longhorned tick (Photo: CDC)

“This tick can overwhelm livestock or dogs or people. You could be out walking in the field and you could get hundreds of ticks that bite you. They are very aggressive feeders,” she said.

The ticks are not commonly found in the United States, though the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported that they were first found in the states back in 2010 and have been found in 17 states.

The following is from a SCDHEC release:

The Asian longhorned ticks in South Carolina have been identified through the state’s tick surveillance program – a collaborative effort between DHEC, the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health and Clemson University Livestock Poultry Health, the department said in a release.

“While no documented cases of diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or anaplasmosis have been reported in the United States due to bites from Asian longhorned ticks, the ability of this tick species to spread diseases that can make people and animals ill is a concern,” said Dr. Chris Evans, State Public Health Entomologist with DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services. “However, more research is needed in the United States to better understand what diseases the Asian Longhorned Tick can spread and to what degree they are a health risk to people, livestock, and other animals. The ability of this tick species to increase its populations very quickly, leading to large infestations in a short amount of time, is also concerning.”

Unlike other ticks, a single female Asian longhorned tick can produce 1,000 to 2,000 eggs at a time without mating. This means a single animal could host hundreds or thousands of ticks.

Asian longhorned ticks are light brown in color and tiny. Because of their small size and quick movement, they are difficult to detect. These ticks can feed on any animal but are most commonly found on livestock, dogs and humans.

To help state officials learn more about the prevalence of Asian longhorned ticks in South Carolina, residents are asked to carefully submit ticks suspected to be Asian longhorned ticks for confirmatory identification. This surveillance will help determine tick species presence, distribution, seasonality, and potential tick-borne disease risks.

To participate in the tick surveillance project, carefully collect a tick by using gloved hands, tweezers or another tool and send collected ticks, alive or dead, in a puncture-resistant sealable vial or zippered storage bag to Laboratory of Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, 921 Assembly Street #417A Columbia, SC 29201. Please include: 

  • Your name and phone number
  • Address of where the tick was collected (if not a street address, provide directions and distances from nearby road intersections)
  • Date of collection 
  • Indicate if the tick was found on a human or animal and specify the type of animal 

State health officials ask all South Carolinians to be mindful of ticks when enjoying time outdoors. To help prevent tick bites and possible exposure to tick-borne illnesses:

  • Use U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone.
  • Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks, and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Follow all label directions.
  • Wear protective clothing tucked in around the ankles and waist.
  • Shower with soap and shampoo soon after being outdoors.
  • Keep weeds and tall grass cut and avoid tick-infested places such as grassy and marshy woodland areas when possible.
  • Stay in the center of paths when hiking or walking through woods.
  • Check for ticks daily, especially under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and on the hairline.
  • Check pets for ticks daily and treat pets for ticks as recommended by a veterinarian.

Clemson University recommends that livestock owners work with their veterinarian and extension agent to develop a comprehensive tick management plan that includes using approved tick preventatives that can be applied to horses and livestock and following procedures that reduce ticks in pastures.

It’s important to note that the Asian longhorned tick has no relation to the Asian longhorned beetle that was identified in South Carolina two years ago and prompted a 73-square-mile quarantine zone in Charleston and Dorchester counties. 

For additional information about Asian longhorned ticks, visit Clemson University’s South Carolina Ticks and Animal Health webpage. To more learn about tick-borne illnesses in South Carolina and the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health tick identification program, visit scdhec.gov/ticks.