Fonseca Lab


ESA’s Invasive Species Position Statement

Click here for the full statement. Notice the formal definition of “invasive species” –

“‘Invasive species’ means an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or
environmental harm or harm to human health” Executive Order 13112 (1999)”

I would like to highlight recommendation#2 “Create a rapid-response funding and authorization mechanism to eradicate or stop the spread of invasive species; and recommendation# “Create a National Invasive Species Intervention Network (NISIN).”

It’s a MUST READ! This is a “tour-de-force” led by Andrea Egizi – in the end there are 25 co-authors on the publication and a great set of representative populations from across the Asian longhorned tick’s native and exotic ranges were examined at the barcoding locus in the cytochrome oxidase 1.

Bottom line: (1) bisexual and parthenogenetic ALTs split a while back; (2) US pops all bear the parthenogenetic CO1 signature; (3) so far, only 3 CO1 haplotypes have been detected, which are clustered across the NE US; (4) the most likely origin of US ALT is China. Road trip!

Here’s a link to the story on the Rutgers site.

Photo by Jim Occi @ CVB

Asian longhorned tick Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Tick IPM #3: Asian Longhorned Tick IPM. Dina and Matt Bickerton will be giving this webinar on July 13. See link for registration.

Questing Asian longhorned tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis. You can see its outstretched arms in the shadow on the right. Picture by Dina Fonseca (taken with a bittyPhone)

The Asian giant hornet has been re-detected in 2020, two queens

credit: Joel Nielsen (from WSDA site)

May 29, 2020 – update. The Washington State Department of Agriculture reported on their website that the first US Vespa mandarinia of 2020 was detected near Custer, WA on May 27 by a resident. It was a queen, consistent with the stage that would have overwintered. The locations indicate a localized infestation – i.e. it is highly unlikely the species will be detected outside the Pacific NW this year. Here’s a link to a video press conference (click).

May 28, 2020 – The New York Times reports two confirmed collections of Vespa mandarinia in May 2020. One in British Columbia, Canada near Langley, and the other in Washington state. Both are locations in the Pacific northwest relatively close to the original discovery in Washington State although apparently farther north and south than originally expected. Odds are that the species is established, but “hope springs eternal”. While not yet published it appears there is genetic evidence of at least two separate introductions.

Deja vu anyone??

Invasive hornet (maybe)


May 20, 2020 – These are not new news but old news: Asian giant hornets (AGH), including a nest later destroyed, were detected in western Canada (British Columbia) last summer (2019). Later, in December, a dead AGH specimen and some suspicious evidence of large numbers of dead (decapitated) honeybees were detected in a couple of locations in Washington State. For details developed to provide information to the public that is starting to think any large insects is an AGH click here.

Contacted in late April, Sven-Erik Spichiger from the Washington State Department of Agriculture confirmed that no detections of the species have been made so far in 2020. Click here for a mapped tally of putative detections. The photo above was provided by Sven-Erik for the information sheet developed by Michelle Infante-Casella and William Bamka. Thanks!

Late night update: From Karla Salp, WSDA “nothing new to report! No new confirmed Asian giant hornet sightings in Washington.”

An “erratic” mosquito moves north and the results are predictable

even-virescens-2523735_1920Egizietal2018(EcoHealth) This was a project that was a long time in the making! But we accumulated co-authors along the way and the content became more and more interesting. Culex erraticus is a southern mosquito species that was first detected in NJ in 1969 and became officially present across all 21 NJ counties by 2011. We performed a bloodmeal analysis on specimens “set-aside” by county mosquito control programs across NJ and found that the primary (over 50%) blood hosts for this mosquito in NJ are large-sized waterbirds such as double-crested cormorants and green herons. In that blood we also found a new species of bird malaria (Plasmodium) that appears to be a wetland bird specialist. Unlike exotic mosquitoes such as the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus or the house mosquito, Culex pipiens, that are domestic and for the most part do not venture away from cities and suburbs, native species moving north are out there, in nature. Their expansion may therefore have strong effects on wildlife, which may spill over to humans – for example, birds are the reservoir hosts for deadly arboviruses such as Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV). Cx. erraticus does bite humans also.

Population genetics for the good of the citizen

July 1, 2018 – Just in time of the 4th of July New released a detailed examination of the importance of the exotic longhorned tick to NJ residents. The report also talks about native ticks and the pathogens they are known to carry and strategies residents can use to avoid becoming a “statistic”. Importantly, Andrea made her debut as the “Science gal” explaining the intricacies of DNA extraction and amplification to a general audience and the power of population genetics to give us some very needed answers. Go Andrea!!

Its a ticky world!


Three nymphs of blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis, also three nymphs of lone star tick, Amblyomma americanum, and eight nymphs of the exotic longhorned tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis, all found during surveillance of the Rutgers Cook campus. We are developing strategies for Integrated Pest Management for ticks on campus working with Animal Science, Rutgers Vets and maybe one day, Facilities (maybe they’ll finally listen to us and replace the black garbage bags across campus with perforated ones…).

Terrestrial invasives leave “DNA footprints”, Nature says.

May 15, 2018 – Rafael’s chapter on using eDNA to detect terrestrial invasives is finally out (Valentinetal2018) and got “covered” by Nature. Looking forward to seeing the citations pilling up!stink_bug in article

When the title does not match the content

24 April 2014 – You will notice that the last sentence of that article states “The bad news is that they usually have multiple generations each summer so while they may start slow, there is plenty of time to catch up,” Fonseca said.” so the title “NJ weather: Cold spring means fewer mosquitoes this summer, and here’s why” is not really warranted.

The press is an important way to provide information to the public but work with them to get the information right. Often, the push for a clickable title gets in the way…

Reaction to the re-discovery of the longhorned tick in NJ

21 April 2018 – NJ Department of Agriculture formally announced the re-emergence of the invasive tick (aka exotick) – click on the date for the press-release. A few news outlets have responded:;; Philadelphia Inquirer; CBS New York; People Magazine. There was also a piece on National Public Radio. Reaction overall seems muted, sometimes fatalistic and often humorous (check out the comments on’s website 🙂 )

The longhorned tick is back! (actually, it never left)

13 April 2018 – It was Friday the 13th but also one of the first warm days of this Spring and Jim decided to go check up on the ticks in the Hunterdon farm where an invasive tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis, was confirmed in 2017. Andrea went with him – the “buddy system” is an important tool of surveillance.  They were also supported by Tadhgh Rainey from the Hunterdon Department of Health and Adam Randall from F&W. Jim brought along CO2 traps, which turned out to be a great decision. They swept the grassland and got nothing, but found several nymphs and a few larvae and adults were attracted to the dry ice. They caught them with tweezers as they climbed onto the white cardboard surrounding the dry ice cooler.