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Asian Self-Cloning Tick Invader Could Wreak Havoc In US

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Asian ticks, which have found their way to the United States, can clone themselves and spread fast across the country.

Asian Ticks In The US

Scientists warned that the Asian longhorned ticks might one day invade the eastern part of North America and the coastal regions of the Pacific Northwest. The tick has already been found in nine states, including New Jersey.

"The Asian longhorned tick is a very adaptable species, especially in its native East Asia," explained Ilia Rochlin, an entomologist from Rutgers University Center for Vector Biology and the author of the study. "The optimal tick habitat appears to be defined by temperate conditions -- moderate temperature, humidity, and precipitation. These climatic conditions also support forested or shrubby vegetation, providing prime environment for ticks."

Asian longhorned ticks or Haemaphysalis longicornis, as the name suggests, are often found in East Asia, particularly in China, Japan, and Korea. The invasive species can also be found in southeastern Russia and parts of Australia and New Zealand.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while there have been no reports of tick-related illnesses in the United States so far, a bite from the invasive species can make people and animals seriously ill.

Asian Ticks Reproducing Fast

One known characteristic of Asian longhorned ticks is their ability to lay eggs without mating. A female tick can reproduce offsprings that are essentially copies of itself, increasing the likelihood that the creature will spread fast across the country.

Rochlin used climate data from 260 locations where the ticks were found and analyzed factors such as annual temperature, annual rainfall, and others. The researcher wanted to find the variables that can predict where the ticks will next show up in the United States.

Using this model, she listed down the areas where Asian longhorned ticks will most likely survive. She found that the most suitable habitats based on the climate and the environment for the survival of the blood-suckers are along the coast: from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in Canada to Virginia and North Carolina in the East Coast, as well as from southern British Columbia to northern coastal California in the West Coast.

Inland eastern United States, from Louisiana to Wisconsin, and Canada, including Ontario and Quebec, might also see an invasion of Asian longhorned ticks in the future.

The findings were published in the Jornal of Medical Entomology.

What To Do With Asian Longhorned Ticks

The CDC advises the public to remove the ticks as soon as they spot the creatures on people and animals. To help the agency's investigation of the creatures, the public can also send the ticks in a jar or ziplock bag before contacting the state agricultural department for identification.

if bitten, contact the health department about tests to prevent tickborne diseases or a veterinarian for tips on how to protect pets from ticks and tick bites.

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