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Managing the Asian Longhorned Tick: Checklist of Best Tick Management Practices for Horse Owners



Authors as Published

Theresa A. Dellinger, Diagnostician; and Eric Day, Insect ID Lab Manager, Insect Identification Lab; Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech


While primarily a concern on cattle, Asian longhorned tick (ALT, Fig. 1) feeds on a variety of hosts, including horses. ALT may occur in large numbers on a host, reducing host health and possibly spreading diseases. ALT reproduces without mating so tick densities can build quickly. Managing ALT can be very difficult because this tick spends most of its life off the host and on the ground. The following recommendations are suggested to help protect your animals and reduce the impact and spread of ALT.

A closeup of the dorsal view of a reddish-brown tick.
Figure 1. Asian longhorn tick, dorsal view. (Eric Day, Virginia Tech)


  • Regularly inspect horses for ticks. The ALT issmall and may go unnoticed with only a cursoryglance. Focus on the head and the neck, but also check the flanks and back, the armpits and groin, and under the tail. Tick larvae, nymphs, and adults may all be found at the same time on a single animal. 
  • Grooming is an excellent opportunity to monitora horse for ticks. Run your fingers over the animal’s body and inspect any small bumpsclosely. Ticks can be detected by touch and this method may find more ticks than just doing avisual inspection.
  • Know how to properly remove a tick. Using fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool,grasp the tick firmly as close to the animal’s skinas possible and slowly pull the tick off in the same angle it is attached. Do not twist or yank the tick as this will tear off the mouthparts and leave them embedded in the horse’s skin. Do not squeeze the tick’s body with the tweezers as thismay force the tick’s gut contents and any diseasepathogens into the horse. Do not crush the tickwith your fingers as this may release pathogenson your hands. Place the tick in a container witha small amount of hand sanitizer, rubbingalcohol, or insect spray to kill the tick, or placein the freezer for several days. Clean the site of the tick bite with soap and water and monitor that it heals properly.
  • Do not use a lit match to burn the tick off as you may injure the horse. Do not use petroleum jelly,fingernail polish, kerosene, drawing salves,liquid soap, or any similar substances to “suffocate” the tick. While this method might kill the tick, the tick might still live long enoughto infect the horse with a disease pathogen.
  • Horses that are lethargic, have patchy hair, orgenerally look unthrifty should always beinspected for ticks or other ectoparasites.
  • Submit ticks to your local extension agent forspecies confirmation.
  • Once ALT is confirmed on your animals orfound on your property, you should assume it isestablished in the area and that management forthis tick will be an on-going process.

Chemical Control

  • Consider using chemical controls on your horsesif you don’t already. Chemical controls for ticks will also help protect your animals against the deer tick that transmits Lyme disease and other infectious diseases.
  • Not all insect repellents or insecticides arelabeled for ticks. Check the product label toensure the product is approved for use against ticks on horses.
  • Pour-ons containing permethrin are a goodchoice for tick control on horses. Apply in anarrow strip along the horse’s topline and down the face. Follow all label precautions. Heavyrain may temporarily wash insecticides off the animal. Check for the presence of flies on theanimal several days after a heavy rain. Increased numbers of flies at several days after a heavy rain may indicate the need to retreat the animal. Pour-ons will also provide fly control.
  • Deworming with ivermectin or moxidectin will kill ticks as they feed, but not ticks that aren’t attached to the animal. Do not rely ondewormers to control ticks on your animals. The treatment will not persist long enough to impact tick populations.
  • Sprays or wipe-ons are useful for repelling or killing ticks wandering on the animal’s body.Follow label recommendations for timing and frequency of applications.
  • Topical spot-on formulations are available foruse on horses in Virginia.
  • Home remedy products containing essential oils are rarely as effective in repelling or controlling ticks as commercial preparations containing permethrin or other approved pesticides.
  • Treat all animals in a herd for ticks at the sametime. Apply formulations specifically labeled fortick control. Follow all label recommendationsfor any pesticide used on an animal.
  • Chemical treatment of pastures is not recommended except under severe conditions of high tick densities. Carbaryl (Sevin) labeled foruse on pastures should be restricted to sections of the pasture with the highest number of ticks.
  • Pasture treatments should always be used in conjunction with, and not in place of, other treatments.

Herd Management

  • Inspect new horses for ticks during a quarantineperiod. Treat animals before adding to the established herd if ticks are found.
  • Consider having animals tested by your vet fortick-borne disease if ticks are found on them,especially if horses show loss of appetite and/orweight loss; seem stiff and reluctant to move; orotherwise appear unthrifty.
  • Mow and keep pastures short as long grass and brush enhance tick survival. Leaving pasturesungrazed will not control ticks as they cansurvive about a year without feeding.
  • Keep horses out of wooded areas. If possible,fence fields 20 feet away from wooded areas.
  • Mow pastures short before rotating horses backinto them, even if they have been treated forticks.
  • Wildlife, such as deer, small mammals, andbirds, serve as alternative hosts for ticks andassist their spread throughout pastures.
  • Other domesticated animals (e.g., smalllivestock, poultry, pets) on the property shouldbe examined and treated for ticks.
  • People working with livestock, especially tick-infested animals, should inspect themselves forany ticks after working with the animals. Followall label recommendations for personal protection when handling any pesticides.

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Publication Date

March 25, 2020