March 03, 2024

Check cattle for Asian longhorned ticks

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Asian longhorned tick could become a problem for Illinois cattlemen.

“The Asian longhorned tick is currently in 18 states, so we’re trying to be proactive and not reactive to this tick,” said Teresa Steckler, University of Illinois Extension commercial agriculture educator.

“I’m not aware of it being in Illinois, but that does not mean it hasn’t been brought in by bird,” said Steckler at a booth in the trade show during the Illinois Beef Expo. “It is in western Kentucky and southern Ohio, so within the next year and a half we’ll probably have some in Illinois.”

This tick can reproduce without mating with a male.

“We’re trying to make producers in Illinois aware of this tick because anybody bringing livestock out of the south could bring one tick on their farm and it could turn into thousands of ticks,” Steckler said.

The Asian longhorned tick can carry the disease Theileriosis.

“It presents itself like anaplasmosis so you won’t know unless you have the animal tested,” Steckler said. “We want producers to know so they can quarantine their animals and treat them with something that kills ticks.”

At a farm in North Carolina, this pest has been linked to the death of five cows and one bull had over 1,000 attached ticks.

It is important for cattlemen traveling to shows to watch for this tick.

“There can be cattle from multiple areas in the same barn,” Steckler said.

Other ticks are also causing problems.

“With the increase in the Lone Star tick and the Gulf Coast tick, we’re seeing an increase in tick-borne diseases in Illinois,” Steckler said.

“The Lone Star tick can cause alpha-gal syndrome in people which is an allergy to red meat,” she said. “We need people to be proactive and protect themselves against tick bites.”

Anyone who finds a tick can get it identified for free by the Illinois Natural History Survey Medical Entomology Lab.

“Collect the ticks off livestock, pets or you and send them in to help us know where the ticks are at,” Steckler said. “The lab will identify the ticks and possibly check for diseases of livestock and human health consequences.”

If a person has a latched tick, it is important to remove it properly.

“If you don’t, the tick will expel what’s in its salivary glands into you,” Steckler said.

To remove an attached tick:

1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.

2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick.

3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

For the past two years Steckler has been conducting research to look at the effects of evasive plants on ticks and tick populations.

“This is a multi-departmental collaboration that includes Veterinary Medicine, U of I Extension, National Resources and Environmental Sciences and the Illinois Natural History Survey with funding from the Dudley Smith Initiative,” she said.

The study includes several evasive plants — garlic mustard, bushy honeysuckle and Japanese stiltgrass.

“We looked at temperature and humidity at two heights and we drug the plants every three weeks for ticks,” Steckler said.

“Garlic mustard is found mostly up north around the Chicago area,” she said. “Bushy honeysuckle is all over the state and if you look in the woods especially in the fall when the trees have dropped their leaves, anything that is green is likely bushy honeysuckle.”

The research is showing a change in invasive plant species.

“They are impacting the relative humidity which can make it more hospitable for ticks because ticks love high humidity,” Steckler said. “So, we need to increase the awareness about invasive plants and how to remove them.”

The researchers are working on compiling the data from the project.

“The results should be available this fall,” Steckler said.

Martha Blum

Martha Blum

Field Editor