U.S. Customs: Unusual tick makes first appearance at port in Charleston

This soft-bodied tick that was intercepted at the port of Charleston recently can carry the West Nile virus, according to customs agents.

U.S. Customs & Border Protection in Charleston has made the first interception of Argas species (soft bodied tick) in a maritime port in the United States, a rather unusual and significant find, authorities said.

Customs officials said the incident played out this way:

It all started when a shipment of work gloves from Pakistan was held for agriculture inspection due to previous Khapra Beetle infestations.

This time, however, examination of the shipment determined that it was actually free from beetles. Upon further inspection, though, a CBP agriculture specialist saw something on the exterior of the shipping carton.

The adult tick, approximately one-quarter inch in size, was collected for identification. A few days later, after traveling to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, the specimen was identified as Argas species (Argasidae).

According to an entomologist at the laboratory: “This species of tick is a bird parasite that occurs widely in Africa, southern Europe, the Middle East and across south-central Asia. Pigeons are the primary hosts for this tick, but it also feeds on domestic fowl and a limited variety of wild birds. Information about the disease relationships of this genus are limited, however, West Nile Virus has been found in this tick, and it may be an overwintering vector of that virus in the Middle East.

“Soft ticks, especially Argas species, only rarely are imported in commerce, and we even more rarely see them for identification.”

This is considered by the USDA to be a first-time interception of this tick in a maritime port in the United States.