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The Rise of the Lone Star Tick in the US

(images not to scale, they’re smaller than a thumbtack)

The Lone Star tick, scientifically known as Amblyomma americanum, is a type of tick commonly found in the southeastern and eastern United States. Known for its aggressive biting behavior and potential to transmit diseases such as ehrlichiosis and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI), this tick species is becoming a growing concern.

Current Distribution

The Lone Star tick was originally prevalent in the southeastern U.S. but has been expanding its range northward and westward over the past few decades. States like Missouri, Illinois, and parts of Kansas have seen an increase in the presence of these ticks. Their habitat typically includes wooded, brushy areas that provide ample coverage and hosts, which are essential for their lifecycle.

Factors Driving Range Expansion

Several factors contribute to the range expansion of the Lone Star tick:

  • Climate Change: Warmer temperatures and milder winters allow ticks to survive and reproduce more effectively.
  • Ecological Changes: Changes in land use, such as increased brush and forested areas, provide more suitable habitats for ticks.
  • Host Availability: Increased populations of deer and other mammals help support the life cycle of the Lone Star tick.

Health Risks

The Lone Star tick is a vector for various pathogens that can cause significant health issues, including:

  • Ehrlichiosis: Symptoms include fever, chills, severe headaches, muscle aches, and sometimes upset stomach.
  • STARI: Characterized by a rash similar to that seen in Lyme disease, along with fatigue, headache, fever, and muscle pains.
  • Alpha-gal Syndrome: This is an allergy to red meat and other products made from mammals that occurs after a bite from the Lone Star tick.

Potential Future Impact

Given the current trends in climate and ecological changes, the range of the Lone Star tick is expected to continue expanding. Potential future affected areas include more northern states such as Iowa, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, and it could spread further west into parts of Oklahoma and Texas. Public health officials and communities in these areas need to prepare for the presence of these ticks.

Prevention and Control

To manage the risk posed by the Lone Star tick, both individuals and communities can take preventive measures:

  • Personal Protection: Use tick repellents, wear long sleeves and pants, and perform regular tick checks after spending time outdoors.
  • Landscape Management: Keep lawns mowed and remove leaf litter and tall grasses to minimize tick habitats.
  • Public Education: Awareness campaigns about the risks of tick bites and how to deal with tick infestations effectively.


As the Lone Star tick continues to spread across the United States, understanding its behavior, risks, and prevention strategies becomes crucial. Whether you’re hiking in the woods or just spending time in your backyard, taking proactive steps to prevent tick bites can help mitigate the health risks associated with these formidable pests. Awareness and preparedness are key in dealing with the expanding threat of the Lone Star tick.

Posted on April 16, 2024

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