080121_TICKS_NP_ARTICLE

A man make use of a walking path at Youngdahl Conservation Area. Asian Longhaired Ticks recently were found in Springfield, Missouri. The parasites are able to live even in short and maintained grass, Missouri Western State University Assistant Biology Professor Carissa Ganong said.

A new species of tick was confirmed in Missouri last week after spreading from other states.

Recognizing the Asian Longhorned Tick could be tricky because of its appearance, said Carissa Ganong, a Missouri Western State University assistant professor of biology.

“This looks very similar to a lot of native ticks and can only be distinguished by looking at the mouth parts with a microscope and then knowing exactly what you’re looking for,” she said. “So some scientists have said it may be out there in a lot of other areas, we just don’t know it because it looks so similar to a lot of other ticks that are already there.”

Missouri is the 16th state where the Asian Longhorned Tick has been found since first being confirmed in the U.S. in 2017. The sighting in Missouri was near Springfield, according to a July 27 press release from the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

But there’s a possibility the Asian Longhorned Tick could already be in other places. The tick’s breeding and living habits mean it could be going undetected, Ganong said.

“Normally a male and female tick have to mate, and the female will lay eggs, and they’ll go to the larvae and nymph stages,” she said. “In this case, the female doesn’t mate. Males are actually quite rare in this species, and a female can just produce asexually.”

There also is evidence that the tick can live in short and maintained grass, as opposed to most species of ticks that thrive in longer brush, Ganong said.

One of the biggest potential dangers is disease transmission, Ganong said, but gauging the level of concern is difficult since so little is known about the species.

Her recommendations for avoiding the parasites are the same as with other ticks.

“If you’re going to be outside, long pants, long sleeves, approved tick repellents,” she said.

There hasn’t been a recorded incident of the ticks transmitting disease in the U.S., but Ganong says there are several diseases they’re known to carry in Asia.

There also are examples of the ticks spreading to Australia. One major concern there has been disease spreading to livestock, with dairy production falling by up to 25% in some cases, Ganong said.

Alex Simone can be reached at alex.simone@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter at @np_simone.

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