MACON, Ga. — The Asian Longhorned Tick (ALHT), an invasive species with the potential to cause severe anemia and tick fever in livestock, has been found on cattle in three north Georgia counties according to the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL).
ALHT was confirmed on a cow in Habersham County on June 17 and on multiple cattle at one Hall County farm on April 29, NVSL public records show. The first confirmation of ALHT in Georgia was made Sept. 20, 2021, on a Pickens County cow.
“The Asian Longhorned Tick looks very similar to other ticks in Georgia. One distinctive aspect of Asian Longhorned Ticks is they tend to occur in large numbers. If an animal has one tick it’s probably our common Lone Star Tick,” UGA Entomologist Dr. Nancy Hinkle said. “If an animal shows up with hundreds of ticks on it, we’re going to be very suspicious that we’re looking at an Asian Longhorned Tick infestation.”
Since 2017, the ALHT has been identified in 17 states, ranging from lower New England to Georgia along the Atlantic Coast and as far inland as Arkansas and Missouri.
“We want folks to be on the lookout. It is likely that the tick will be identified in additional Georgia counties,” Georgia’s State Veterinarian Dr. Janemarie Hennebelle said.
Georgia Department of Agriculture information on ALHT in Georgia may be accessed at https://gfb.ag/gdaaltupdates.
What is risk to animals?
According to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a severe infestation of ALHT could potentially kill an animal from excessive blood loss. ALHT can transmit the pathogen Theileria orientalis Ikedia (TOI) to cattle causing theileriosis. Cattle with TOI infections may exhibit weakness, reluctance to walk, abortion, pale mucus membranes, high fever, and elevated heart and respiratory rates with death in up to 5% of infected cattle, the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine reports. Cattle that recover can become Theileria carriers.
To date, TOI has not been detected in the ALHT found in Georgia.
How to report a suspected infestation
Livestock producers are encouraged to help track the presence of ALHT in Georgia by monitoring their animals and wildlife for large infestations of ticks.
“I want folks to take a step back and not just think about cows. Any warm-blooded animal is a potential host,” Hennebelle said. “In other states, the No. 1 species this tick is being found on is dogs.”
Anyone who finds large infestations of ticks on one animal should preferably call their veterinarian and report it to the GDA at 404-656-3667. Visit www.gfb.ag/tickreporting for tips to properly collect tick samples and report to the GDA if you don’t have a veterinarian.
How to control ALHT
Livestock producers should work with their veterinarian and/or Extension agent to fight any tick infestations.
“Right now, all of your normal tick control products are going to work on controlling the Asian Longhorned Tick,” Hennebelle said.
Visit www.gfb.ag/UGAlivestockpestmanagement and scroll down to the section on ticks for a list of pesticides UGA Extension recommends to treat livestock for ticks. All treatment should be done in consultation with a veterinarian to ensure proper withdrawal times are observed and that a product is not overused to prevent product resistance.
“No amount of pesticides will eliminate all ticks,” Hinkle said. “We recommend a combination of wise pesticide use with pasture mowing.”
Producers should at least mow the edge of their pastures along tree lines since woods are a prime ALHT habitat.
“Going from summer to fall may be an important time to decrease vegetation when female ticks are laying eggs,” Hinkle said.
–Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau