NORFOLK, Va. — Inside a freezer at the at Old Dominion University, you’ll find bags of ticks being preserved for research.
“We have been collecting ticks at the same sites in the same way every month since 2009 to try to look at long-term trends,” said ODU Biological Sciences Department Chair Dr. Holly Gaff.
In a bag by itself is an , the only one so far known to have been found in the Chesapeake area.
“A lot of the collaborators I speak with, it’s not very common in the coastal areas. We’re not sure why yet,” said Gaff.
Virginia Cooperative Extension recently posted information on Facebook, trying to raise awareness about the tick.
Gaff explained the tick is a nymph, meaning whether it’s a male or female can’t be determined.
Female Asian Longhorned Ticks can reproduce without mating.
“Normally, you would be, like, ‘Oh, just one is not a problem.’ But in this particular tick one can be its own population. So if we missed the other one because it had fed on a host, it may just be in diapause, or hibernation, until next year and then there might be more of them,” said Gaff. “We’ll hopefully be able to do some pathogen work on that particular tick.”
Dr. Theresa Dellinger is a diagnostician in the at Virginia Tech and says the tick was first found in Virginia in 2018 after being discovered in the U.S. for the first time in 2017 on a sheep in New Jersey.
“Since then, it has spread, or has been found, throughout much of the mid-Atlantic area,” said Dellinger.
The tick has been found in 39 Virginia counties and 19 states.
Perhaps most concerning, the tick is a vector of a disease in cattle called .
“It can actually cause anemia and sometimes causes problems with calving,” Dellinger explained.
Any disease that effects cattle has the potential to eventually affect prices at the grocery store.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the estimated there were 1.3 million head in Virginia.
According to , beef cattle and calves are the state’s second-leading commodity in terms of cash receipts, totaling more than $679 million.
Whether the tick is actually established in the Chesapeake area or the tick found is the only one of its kind was undetermined as of Sept. 6.
“We notified our state health folks that we collaborate with that are tracking this, but we need to find a few more to have it more than just a drop off,” said Gaff.
According to Dellinger, the tick also feeds readily of wildlife and domestic animals. It will bite humans, but is “not what we would consider an aggressive biter of humans,” she said.
If you find a tick and want to have it identified, you can take it to your local extension office. If it cannot be identified there, the office will send it to the Insect Identification Lab.
Dellinger recommends anyone who gets bit by a tick to save the tick in case it needs to be identified.