The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is expanding a quarantine for the imported fire ant for the entire counties of Catawba, Northampton, Rowan and Rutherford, and the portion of Burke County south of U.S. 70. The expansion is effective Jan. 1, 2017, and will now include portions or entire areas of 74 counties.
The quarantine means residents and business owners in those counties and portions of counties will now need to obtain a permit before moving plants, sod and related equipment into or through non-infested areas. Certificates can be obtained from a local plant protection specialist or by contacting the Plant Protection Section at 800-206-9333 or 919-707-3730.
Items requiring a permit include sod, soil, hay and straw, nursery stock, logs or pulpwood with soil, and soil-moving equipment. Movement of infested materials could result in the establishment and secondary spread of the pest.
“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 Vernon Cox, director of the NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division. “Because fire ants can be harmful to humans and livestock, we remain focused on slowing down the fire ant movement into non-infested areas of the state.”
The imported fire ant first entered the United States through Alabama in 1918. It was first identified in the state in Brunswick County in 1957. As it spread and became established, it was recognized as an aggressive pest of farmlands, pastures, residential areas and wildlife. The imported fire ant is considered to be a nuisance and a health concern to humans, livestock and wildlife due to its painful sting.