COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – South Carolina’s lead health and environmental agency announced Friday they have identified a large population of Asian longhorned ticks infesting a pasture at a cattle farm in York County.

Officials with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said the invasive species of tick is not commonly found in the United States. They said bites from these ticks often cause severe illness in people, animals and livestock in other countries.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports Asian longhorned ticks were first identified in the United States in 2010 and have since been discovered in 17 states. A small number of these ticks were identified in South Carolina on shelter dogs in Lancaster and Pickens counties in 2020.

Health officials said the Asian longhorned ticks in South Carolina have been identified through the state’s tick surveillance program, something they said is a collaborative effort between DHEC, the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health and Clemson University Livestock Poultry Health.

“While no documented cases of diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or anaplasmosis have been reported in the United States due to bites from Asian longhorned ticks, the ability of this tick species to spread diseases that can make people and animals ill is a concern,” said Dr. Chris Evans, State Public Health Entomologist with DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services. “However, more research is needed in the United States to better understand what diseases the Asian longhorned tick can spread and to what degree they are a health risk to people, livestock, and other animals. The ability of this tick species to increase its populations very quickly, leading to large infestations in a short amount of time, is also concerning.”

Unlike other ticks, a single female Asian longhorned tick can produce 1,000 to 2,000 eggs at a time without mating. This means a single animal could host hundreds or thousands of ticks.

Asian longhorned ticks are light brown in color and tiny. Because of their small size and quick movement, they are difficult to detect. These ticks can feed on any animal but are commonly found on livestock, dogs and humans.

Clemson University recommends that livestock owners work with their veterinarian and extension agent to develop a comprehensive tick management plan that includes using approved tick preventatives that can be applied to horses and livestock and following procedures that reduce ticks in pastures.

Environmental leaders said the Asian longhorned tick is not related to the Asian longhorned beetle, which was identified in South Carolina two years ago and prompted a 73-square-mile quarantine zone in Charleston and Dorchester counties.