Fire ant quarantine expanded westward

Published 10:37 pm Friday, December 6, 2019

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced last week that Virginia’s imported fire ant quarantine has been expanded to include the counties of Brunswick, Greensville, Isle of Wight, Mecklenburg and Southampton and the independent cities of Emporia and Franklin.

Expansion of the quarantine became necessary after survey data indicated that imported fire ant populations were widespread in these localities, according to a press release from VDACS.

Suffolk and the rest of the Hampton Roads area, including Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Newport News and Hampton, was already a part of the quarantine.

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The imported fire ant is not native to the United States and is known for its aggressive behavior and ferocious sting. Once established, the imported fire ant has the potential to spread to uninfested areas, either through natural means or through the movement of infested articles.

According to the VDACS website, the first fire ant infestation in Virginia was discovered in 1989. To date, all fire ant infestations appear to have been introduced to Virginia on nursery stock or other plant products from infested areas.

Fire ant mounds are typically found in warm, sunny locations such as landscape beds, lawn, around trees and shrubs, along sidewalks cracks and against buildings.

Under the terms of the quarantine, articles that are capable of transporting the imported fire ant are prohibited from moving out of the quarantined area unless certified as free of imported fire ant. Regulated articles include, but are not limited to:

  • Any life stage of imported fire ant
  • Soil, except soil shipped in original containers after commercial preparation
  • Plants with roots with soil attached and rhizomes with soil attached
  • Grass sod
  • Used soil-moving equipment unless free of all non-compacted soil
  • Used farm equipment, unless free of all non-compacted soil
  • Hay and straw stored in direct contact with the ground
  • Honey bee hives stored in direct contact with the ground
  • Logs and pulpwood with soil attached

Individuals who plan to move regulated articles out of the quarantined area should contact VDACS’ Office of Plant Industry Services to determine options for certifying regulated articles as free of imported fire ants.

With the recent expansion, the quarantine now includes the counties of Brunswick, Greensville, Isle of Wight, James City, Mecklenburg, Southampton, and York and the independent cities of Chesapeake, Emporia, Franklin, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg.

For additional information regarding the Virginia imported fire ant quarantine, visit the VDACS website at vdacs.virginia.gov/plant-industry-services-fire-ant-suppressioneand-eradication.shtml or contact VDACS Office of Plant Industry Services at 804-786-3515.