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Goal: Deliver Benefits to the Public Tracking invasive ticks: Partnership expands known range of the invasive Asian longhorned tick

A unique partnership between the Southern Research Station, Forest Inventory and Analysis, and the University of Tennessee in Knoxville is increasing our knowledge of where ticks are found and which diseases they carry. The team recently found the invasive Asian longhorned tick in Madison County, Kentucky, where it had never before been recorded. It is one of the westernmost sightings of the species.

Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Quality Assurance Forester Brian Allen prepares to place an encountered tick into a vial. USDA Forest Service photo.

In 2014, field staff at the Southern Research Station Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) began collecting ticks encountered in the course of their work and submitting them to Rebecca Trout Fryxell, medical and veterinary entomologist at the University of Tennessee.

This partnership has yielded new information on ticks across the South—their community composition, seasonality, and diseases they carry. Most importantly, collections are associated with the exhaustive plot data collected by FIA, allowing complex analyses to determine the effects of landscape characteristics on tick presence and abundance. The program is ongoing, and in-depth data analysis began in 2020.

Another major benefit of the partnership became apparent when FIA Quality Assurance Forester Brian Allen encountered the invasive Asian longhorned tick in Madison County, Kentucky. This new distribution record was registered with USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and represents one of the westernmost collections of the invasive tick east of the Mississippi River. The collection data include the most comprehensive set of habitat variables reported to date for this tick species. As surveillance continues, new distribution records and other important findings are expected.