DEM: 2 ‘exotic’ tick species discovered on Block Island

South County

The “red sheep” tick (left) and the Asian longhorned tick (right). (Courtesy: RI DEM)

NEW SHOREHAM, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Two species of ticks not commonly found in Rhode Island were discovered for the first time on Block Island this past summer.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) said the Asian longhorned tick and the “red sheep” tick were found by Dr. Danielle M. Tufts as part of a research program.

At first, the exotic ticks were determined to be the native tick species, but upon closer inspection, the DEM said Tufts discovered the ticks weren’t native to Rhode Island.

Tuft examined tick samples collected throughout the duration of the research program, which began in 2010, and determined the two exotic species have actually been around for several years and were mistaken as native ticks due to their similarities.

The DEM said the Asian longhorned tick is considered an invasive species in Australia and New Zealand and is a serious threat to livestock. The “red sheep” tick is native to Europe and is not known to exist naturally elsewhere.

Both species can spread a variety of diseases to humans, livestock and pets.

To prevent the ticks from transferring to new areas and spreading disease, the DEM recommends the following:

  • Apply tick repellents to exposed skin and clothing.
  • Spray permethrin-containing products on outer clothing, including shoes. Permethrin should not be used directly on skin.
  • Check clothing and exposed skin prior to moving from one area to another.
  • Wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Conduct body checks immediately after returning from outdoor activities in tick-infested areas.

More: Tick-borne diseases »

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