Voracious ticks from Asia gave the owner of a sheep in Hunterdon County a shock when it became infested with thousands of ticks at all stages of development last year. The species hadn't been recorded in the wild in the USA before, although a few were seen in quarantine stations. At the time, it was feared that the ticks, identified as the Asian Longhorned Tick, might spread. The fears of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture that they might survive winter came to reality, and now they spread to eight states. The states where the blood-suckers took up residence now include New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

Asian ticks can carry pathogens but don't panic

The Asian tick is capable of carrying dangerous pathogens. According to ARS TECHNICA, they carry "bacteria that cause anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis, the parasite that causes babesiosis, and the Powassan virus." The species was linked to an "emerging" virus in China known as SFTS, which can cause up to 30 percent fatalities. However, there's no need to panic, as, according to Live Science, the Pennsylvania Department of Health say none of the thousands of ticks examined in the US show evidence of carrying these dangerous pathogens, yet.

Voracious, the ticks breed very fast

The bloodsucking creatures seem to breed at an incredible rate, and those people who attended to the first sheep were soon covered in ticks themselves.

They don't need to partner off to breed either. The males occur in the population in the number of about one to four hundred. As they can reproduce asexually, meaning they don't need to mate, one female tick can lay produce around 2000 eggs over a two-day period.

Threat levels to humans and livestock

Presently, the H. longicornis tick is more of a threat to animals than humans.

Smaller animals may be so overwhelmed by them that they literally get blood-sucked to death. They may be carried around on "cattle, sheep, goats, horses, pigs, deer, rabbits, opossums, rodents, kiwi, wallabies, dogs, cats, humans and some birds," according to The Tick App For Texas.

How to protect yourself from Asian Longhorned Ticks

If you live in areas where ticks are likely to occur, the best thing you can do is purchase a tick repellant containing DEET. Wear long pants, even if it's hot. After you get home check yourself for ticks. Keep an eye on your animals and make a point of checking regularly. The USDA noted that they are easily visible when engorged, as they could be a big as a pea. But in the early stages of feeding, they are tiny - like poppy seed sized and could be overlooked.

PenStateExtention writes that the population is an invasive species and has now become established in the country. They caution people to use "Permethrin-treated clothing and DEET, picaridin, or IR3535" for personal use.

However, they note that it's vital to check the instructions and read all the labels carefully. Keep the ticks down by mowing grass and getting rid of piles of rotting brush. If you're concerned about your pets, consult with a veterinarian.