The National Park Service and Suffolk County Department of Health Services have confirmed the findings of Asian longhorned ticks (Haemaphysalis longicornis) in Suffolk County at Lloyd Harbor, William Floyd Estate, and Ocean Beach, Fire Island.
The Asian longhorned tick, which is native to East Asia, was first reported at large in the United States, after being discovered at a farm in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, in 2017. Since this initial discovery, Asian longhorned ticks have been found in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The species can be found on pets, livestock, wildlife, and, on rare occasions, people. To date, no Asian longhorned tick has been found to be infected with pathogens in North America.
In August 2018, two larval Asian longhorned ticks were collected by Suffolk County Department of Health Services in Ocean Beach, Fire Island, by sampling the environment. The species identification was confirmed with morphology and DNA analysis by the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories and Rutgers University.
In March 2019, a nymphal Asian longhorned tick was found on a white-tailed deer at the National Park Service’s William Floyd Estate in Mastic Beach. This tick was identified by Fire Island National Seashore (FIIS) staff and later confirmed to be an Asian longhorned tick through DNA testing. This was the first discovery of an Asian longhorned tick, in the nymph life stage, in Suffolk County.
In July 2019, one adult female Asian longhorned tick was collected by Suffolk County Department of Health Services and New York State Department of Health in Lloyd Harbor by sampling the environment and was confirmed by morphology.
Female Asian longhorned ticks are able to reproduce without mating, making the potential for high numbers of this species to be present in an area; however, tick surveillance conducted at many other sites throughout Suffolk County since 2018, has revealed no other presence of Asian longhorned ticks, suggesting that this tick species is not widespread in the county.
The detection of this species was made possible through Suffolk County’s Tick Surveillance Program and a new research project being conducted at Fire Island National Seashore since 2018. The primary focus of both programs is on tick populations and tick-borne pathogens within Suffolk County and Fire Island National Seashore.
“These programs will increase our knowledge of ticks in Suffolk County and examine how the presence of various species may change over time,” said Dr. James Tomarken, Commissioner of Health Services for Suffolk County.
Although the Asian longhorned ticks in the United States appear to not readily bite humans, and no human pathogens have been found in any of the ticks analyzed thus far, it is still advisable to protect yourself and to conduct daily tick checks, especially after you’ve been in tall vegetation, as other tick species are known to transmit diseases, such as Lyme disease, to humans.
More information on tick bite prevention can be found on the National Park Service website and on the Suffolk County website. For more information on the Asian longhorned ticks, visit CDC’s website.