In its native East Asian range, the longhorn tick spreads potentially fatal human diseases
J. Occi/Rutgers Center for Vector Biology
Tadhgh Rainey has seen his share of bloodsuckers. As an entomologist at the Hunterdon County Health Services in Flemington, N.J., he’s the person to talk to about all things mosquitoes and ticks. But he had never seen anything like the infestation on a pet sheep in September 2017.
When he and his colleague entered the sheep’s enclosure, “we almost immediately got covered in ticks,” he says. “I couldn’t believe this sheep was alive.” It was covered in hundreds, maybe thousands, of ticks.
Unable to identify the ticks, Rainey sent samples to labs across the country. One went to Andrea Egizi, an entomologist at Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences in New Brunswick, N.J. Egizi analyzed the tick’s DNA, and was shocked when the identification came back as Haemaphysalis longicornis, a native of East Asia.