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AREC Network Updates and Responses to Virginia Agricultural Issues

Fire ant quarantine

Fire ant quarantine information

Fire ants are established in Virginia and the fire ant quarantine has recently been expanded. At Virginia Tech, we know this invasive insect can affect your farm and agribusiness practices and management, even if you do not live within the quarantined areas. In response, we are providing you with current information and guidance to help you address your concerns and make effective decisions.

  • Researchers and Agents may handle soil samples and plants with soil attached which can be sources of fire ant distribution. Conveyances such as vehicles, trailers, or farm equipment may also picked up soil and may possibly move fire ants.
  • In addition to these two sources, see Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) list of products (articles) that may be capable of transporting fire ants (See link below). VDACS is actively addressing this issue and is your first point of contact for understanding the quarantine and your role in limiting the expansion of this insect across Virginia.
  • A Virginia Cooperative Extension bulletin about the red imported fire ant is available as a resource to assist you in understanding this insect and the risks to agriculture and urban environments, and control practices if you find this ant in your samples within or external to the quarantined area.

There are several ways samples originating in the quarantined area can be moved out of the quarantined area. They include:

  • County Extension Office and AREC staff should check the map posted on the VDACS website and determine if they are within the fire ant quarantine.
  • Regulations concerning fire ants are only applied to locations inside the quarantine.
  • Inspection of the soil or plant sample before shipment - check for any ants moving around in the container holding the soil for shipping. Do not ship soil or other samples with live fire ants. Inspections such as this, would not work for large scale soil shipments like a truck load of soil but staff at VDACS believe it will be an effective way to find ants in small soil samples. If imported fire ants are found in the sample then the sample should not be shipped outside the quarantined area unless it is treated.
  • If Fire Ants are found in a soil sample or in dirt on the roots of plant samples, treatment of the soil in the sample for imported fire ants with a product registered for use in Virginia;
  • When traveling from an infested county to an area outside of the infestation, check state and personal vehicles for soil and fire ants and remove any fire ants and loose soil found that could harbor fire ants. This can be done with a broom, blower, wash station, etc.
  • On the occasional incident where a commodity with soil or a piece of farm equipment is moved from an AREC, it will require an inspection by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. If equipment is moved regularly in and out of the quarantined area, please call Tina MacIntyre at VDACS (804 786-3515) to arrange for an agreement that would allow for self inspections.
  • For ARECs, treatment of individual mounds in and around the area to be sampled, could be done instead of or in conjunction with inspection of the individual samples.
  • Frequent baiting with a preferred food in the sampling area to monitor for the presence or absence of imported fire ants can also be conducted. This is done per the guidelines in the fire ant manual to document the area is free of imported fire ants. If imported fire ants are found, treatments of the entire sampling area will need to be conducted.

More information:

Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA) (ENTO-342P) (PDF)

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Imported Fire Ant Quarantine