A vicious species of tick originating from Eastern Asia has invaded the US and is rapidly sweeping the Eastern Seaboard, state and federal officials warn.
The tick, the Asian longhorned tick (or Haemaphysalis longicornis), has the potential to transmit an assortment of nasty diseases to humans, including an emerging virus that kills up to 30 percent of victims. So far, the tick hasn’t been found carrying any diseases in the US. It currently poses the largest threat to livestock, pets, and wild animals; the ticks can attack en masse and drain young animals of blood so quickly that they die—an execution method called exsanguination.
Key to the tick’s explosive spread and bloody blitzes is that its invasive populations tend to reproduce asexually—that is, without mating. Females drop up to 2,000 eggs over the course of two or three weeks, quickly giving rise to a ravenous army of clones. In one US population studied so far, experts encountered a massive swarm of the ticks in a single paddock, totalling well into the thousands. They speculated that the population might have a ratio of about one male to 400 females.