Fire Ant Movement Sparks Quarantine Expansion
From Staff And Wire Reports
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
RALEIGH - The continued movement in North Carolina of the imported fire ant, which can inflict very painful venomous stings, has caused the state to expand its quarantine on movement of hay, logs, sod, dirt, and soil equipment in several more counties including Granville County which is just north of Durham.
The NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said this week that it is expanding the quarantine for the imported fire ant "in a continuing effort to monitor and slow the spread of the pest."
The state says that with the expansion, the quarantine now includes portions or entire areas of 61 counties.
Effective immediately, the imported fire ant quarantine is revised to include these new counties:
Clay County -- entire county.
Cherokee County -- entire county.
Edgecombe County -- entire county
Granville County -- portion of the county south of Interstate 85.
(see map at right for more details)
The NCDA said in a released statement that the quarantine expansion means residents and business owners in these areas are required to obtain a permit before moving plants, sod and related equipment into or through non-infested areas.
According to the state, items requiring a permit include sod, soil, hay and straw, nursery plant material, logs or pulpwood with soil and soil-moving equipment.
Permits to move equipment and materials can be obtained from a local plant protection specialist or by contacting the Plant Protection Section at (800) 206-9333 or (919) 733-6932 in the Raleigh area.
"Failure to obtain the needed inspections and certifications may result in the issuance of a stop-sale notice and rejection or destruction of the regulated article," said Gene Cross, director of the NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division. "It is critical we continue proactive efforts to keep the fire ant from moving into non-regulated areas of the state."
Movement of infested materials could result in the spread of the pest to non-infested areas and by limiting movement of these items, the NCDA hopes to slow the ants' progress. The state has been battling the fire ant for decades.
The imported fire ant entered the United States through Alabama in 1918, and was first identified in North Carolina in Brunswick County in 1957.
The fire ant has slowly spread north to additional areas and also now is starting to show up in the western part of the state as well.
"The ant is recognized as an aggressive pest of farmlands, pastures, residential areas and wildlife," says the NCDA.
According to an article in Wikipedia, the red fire ants are more aggressive than most native ant species and have a painful sting and if someone inadvertently steps into one of their mounds, the ants can swarm up the person's legs, attacking en masse.
The ants respond to pheromones that are released by the first ant to attack, says the article. The ants then swarm and immediately sting when any movement is sensed. Anyone who has been stung by red fire ants will not soon forget the experience.