Fonseca Lab


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. 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.

Rafael is now Dr. Valentin!

23 March 2018 – Rafael successfully defended his PhD. Congratulations Rafael! (picture to be added soon)

New Undergraduate Students in the Fonseca Lab!

The Fonseca Lab would like to welcome three new undergraduate students, Courtney Guinard, Kathleen Kyle, and Christian Susu!

Courtney Guinard

Courtney Guinard is an undergraduate student majoring in Animal Science and minoring in Equine Science. She will studying blood meals from mosquitoes that fed on rats in Baltimore, MD as bio-surveillance for Bartonella. The project will allow Courtney to record which species are active in Baltimore, MD. After graduation Courtney would like to attend veterinary school and focus primarily on horses. Courtney is a member of The Seeing Eye at Rutgers University where she raises and trains service dogs.

Kathleen Kyle

Kathleen Kyle is an undergraduate student studying Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources. She will be graduating this semester with a Bachelor of Sciences degree. Kathleen is currently working with Rafael on his eDNA research and assists him on the brown marmorated stink bug and spotted latternfly projects. Kathleen has always been interested in invasive species and hopes to continue learning about invasion ecology and its management and detection.

Christian Susu

Christian Susu is an undergraduate student studying Animal Science: Pre-Veterinary Medicine and Research. He hopes to attend veterinary school after graduation. Christian is currently assisting Jim, Andrea, and Dina in the research of invasive ticks for a NJMCA Poster. Christian’s research focuses on tick borne disease risks in dogs in urban settings and will conduct surveillance to analyze the effects of urban and non-urban ticks.

Andrea Egizi in NPR!

February 27, 2018 – Andrea is featured in the NPR series “Goats and Soda” by Courtney Columbus. The blog includes interviews of two main actors (Tadhgh Rainey and Andrea) about the finding of a multistage infestation of Haemaphysalis longirostris in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, last summer.

If you would like to learn more, the NPR article contains a link to the research article that Andrea and Jim Occi (and collaborators) published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

First talk on Exoticks

22 February 2018 – Dina is giving a talk on invasive ticks (aka Exoticks) at the 2018 Tick Summit (VII) at the National Wildlife Visitor Center at Patuxent Research Refuge (10901 Scarlet Tanager Loop, Laurel, MD 20708). She’ll give an overview of invasive ticks in the US (and also worldwide) and summarize the detection last summer of Haemaphysalis longicornis by Rainey, Occi, Robbins and Egizi in Hunterdon, NJ.