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Virginia issues fire ant quarantine

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has announced a temporary quarantine on the movement of regulated articles in the lower Peninsula and greater Tidewater areas of Southeastern Virginia to areas outside the quarantined localities for the purpose of preventing the artificial spread of the Red Imported Fire Ant to uninfested areas of the state.

The temporary quarantine applies to the counties of James City and York and the cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg.

The quarantine restricts the movement of articles that are capable of transporting fire ants out of the quarantine area. Movement within the quarantine area is not restricted.

Regulated articles include any article or means of conveyance that presents a risk of spreading the imported fire ant, including soil, plants with soil attached, grass sod, used soil-moving equipment, used farm equipment, hay/straw/pine straw, honey bee hives that have been in contact with the ground, and logs, pulp wood or stump wood with soil attached.

“We do not expect the fire ant quarantine to have a negative economic impact on the area,” said VDACS Commissioner Todd P. Haymore. "Regulated articles can move without restriction within the quarantine area. With inspection or a compliance agreement, they will be able to move out of the quarantine, as well. Indeed, we will work with the affected communities and businesses to make sure the quarantine will not deter economic growth in the greater Hampton Roads area while helping to keep an injurious pest that can be quite harmful to humans, pets and agricultural animals from moving to other areas of the state.” 

Regulated articles that are certified free of imported fire ants can be transported out of the quarantined area. Nurseries, tree removal services, timber operations, farmers, builders, construction companies and developers will be required to have regulated articles certified fire ant-free before these articles can be moved from regulated to non-regulated areas.

VDACS’ Office of Plant and Pest Services (OPPS) inspectors can conduct an inspection to determine if regulated articles meet the conditions required to be certified fire ant free. Businesses and individuals that ship regulated articles out of the quarantine on a regular basis can enter into a compliance agreement with VDACS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (USDA-APHIS) that allows for self-certification of regulated articles. Regulated articles shipped under a compliance agreement do not require an inspection by VDACS.

Since eradication is no longer feasible in the quarantined area, OPPS staff will no longer treat these fire ant colonies, concentrating instead on treatments outside the quarantine. Landowners within the quarantine will be responsible for any treatments that occur on their property.

VDACS will host two educational meetings in July to address questions related to the quarantine:
July 1, 2009, 1 – 3 p.m. — Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center, 1444 Diamond Springs Road, Room: 125 A & B, Virginia Beach, Va. 23455

July 10, 2009, 10 a.m. to noon — Tabb Library, adjacent to lobby, 100 Long Green Blvd., Yorktown, Va. 23693

“I urge concerned citizens as well as affected businesses to attend these meetings,” said Commissioner Haymore. “I believe people will find them a good source of information about the ways we are addressing the fire ant problem as well as what we are doing to minimize the impact on business and commerce.”

The first discovery of fire ants in Virginia occurred in Hampton in 1989. Since then, colonies of imported fire ants have continued to grow due to the movement of infested materials, primarily nursery stock from other areas of the country, as well as the fire ant's natural spread. Staff in OPPS successfully treated and eradicated many of the original colonies, but recent data confirms that imported fire ants are now established and spreading naturally in the Tidewater area.

Prior to 2008, OPPS treated an average of 33 imported fire ant sites per year. From July 1 to Dec. 31, 2008, OPPS treated 642 imported fire ant sites in the Tidewater area. This increase in the fire ant population indicates that the populations have become established in this area and eradication is no longer achievable.

The temporary quarantine, which would become permanent when approved by the Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services, is designed to reduce the artificial spread of imported fire ants to areas that currently are not infested. Without this quarantine, articles capable of transporting the imported fire ant would be allowed to move freely throughout the state, spreading the pest’s presence.

For more information on imported fire ants, see or contact the following resources:

• Contact your city or county agricultural Extension agent, listed in the local government section of your telephone directory under Virginia Cooperative Extension Service (VCE). Or visit VCE’s Web site.

• Call VDACS’ Office of Plant and Pest Services in Richmond at 804.786.3515 or in Franklin at 757.562.6637.

• See VDACS’ Web site for Frequently Asked Questions and other information.

• See USDA-APHIS Imported Fire Ant Web site.

TAGS: Legislative
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