Tick found at local terminal

This soft-bodied tick that was intercepted by customs agents at the Port of Charleston last week was identified as the Argas species, which can carry the West Nile virus, according to the agents.

Just weeks after keeping the notorious big-headed ant from gnawing its way through the Lowcounty, customs agents in Charleston have intercepted an unusual and potentially dangerous tick.

It was the first time a soft-bodied tick of the Argas species has been found at any U.S. port, according to Steve Switzer, spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in Charleston.

The Argas tick can carry the West Nile virus, according to an entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, which identified the tick found in Charleston. It’s usually found on birds in Africa, southern Europe, the Middle East and south-central Asia.

This tick, about a quarter inch in diameter, made its way to Charleston in a shipment of work gloves from Pakistan. The shipment was held for agriculture inspection because of previous Khapra beetle infestations, Switzer said. The tick was discovered crawling on the outside of a box last week.

After the tick was found, the shipment was sent back and not accepted into the country, Switzer said.

The big-headed ants were found April 30 in a container of aluminum scrap metal on a ship from Costa Rica.

That species of ants is listed among 100 of the “World’s Worst” invaders. It not only threatens native plants and other insects, it also is known to chew on irrigation pipes, telephone cables and electrical wires, Switzer said.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or twitter.com/dmunday.