In the summer of 2017, a woman farmer from Hunterdon County paid a visit to the local health office with thousands of ticks on her body. She discovered the ticks after shearing a 12-year-old Icelandic sheep.

When the health office called in experts from Rutgers University’s Center for Vector Biology to identify the ticks, they were surprised. The ticks found were East Asian ticks, also referred to as longhorned ticks or bush ticks. The longhorned tick is a species of tick not yet established in New Jersey.

The longhorned tick is a swarming tick that takes deer, livestock, and other animals as a host. They produce asexually and a single tick is able to lay thousands of eggs. They’re also able to carry and spread diseases to humans and pets.

Local state and federal animal health and wildlife officials worked closely with the experts from Rutgers University to address the threat. A chemical wash was performed on all the sheep to eliminate these ticks. Tall grass was cut short to reduce the spread. And ongoing surveillance by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory was established.

They questioned the farm owners about the sheep on which the ticks were found and learned that it had not traveled internationally where these ticks are abundant and it had only rarely left the county, which left experts scratching their heads. As of this writing, it is still unclear how these ticks made their way into New Jersey.

Tests were performed to check the ticks for diseases such as spotted fever rickettsioses. Fortunately, the tests came back negative.

In April of 2018, the National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirmed that the longhorned tick successfully overwintered. That means this tick species is here to stay.

So, what should residents do?

  • Take precautions to prevent ticks such as purchasing veterinarian-prescribed tick products for your pets, avoid areas of tall grass, and wear insect repellent on your legs when walking in nature
  • Be on the lookout for these pea-sized, dark brown ticks that look a little bit like small spiders
  • If you see these ticks, contact the state veterinarian at 609-671-6400

The appearance of the longhorned tick is just one more reason to get routine tick treatments for your yard. If you need assistance with this, contact ChemTec Pest Control today.