news fire ant detection leads to expanded quarantine zone in virginia

Fire ant detection leads to expanded quarantine zone in Virginia

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Five Virginia counties have joined the growing list of localities facing a fire ant quarantine zone. The pests have established a presence in Charlotte, Dinwiddie, Halifax, Lunenburg and Sussex counties.

The invasive species pose a threat to Virginia’s agricultural and natural resources because they damage crops and agricultural equipment and may impact livestock and wildlife.

The quarantine zone is primarily in the Tidewater and Southside regions of Virginia. The quarantine was established in 2009, but the new counties were added to the list last month.

Ten-inch mounds produced by the fire ants could potentially cause problems for farm equipment. In Texas, some mounds have been several feet tall.

Richard Hite, a tobacco, produce, soybean and cattle farmer in Lunenburg County, said he noticed a lot of fire ant mounds in his soybean fields in 2020 but “did not see many” in 2021. This past year, he noticed sporadic fire ant activity but said he doesn’t think it’s hindered county farmers.

Under quarantine provisions, articles capable of transporting fire ants are prohibited from moving outside of the quarantined area unless they’re cleared as being free of imported fire ants.

Regulated articles include soil; rhizomes, logs, pulpwood and plants with roots and soil attached; grass sod; used farm and soil-moving equipment; and hay, straw and honeybee hives that have had direct contact with the ground.

Along with businesses in other quarantined counties and cities, those in the newly added counties that ship to locations outside of the quarantine zone must follow U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved treatment and shipping options.

Businesses may work with VDACS to facilitate shipping regulated articles in compliance with fire ant quarantine terms.

Farmers and landowners may search online to see if their property is located within the quarantine zone. If you suspect an infestation within the quarantine area, exercise caution and call your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office for treatment options.

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.