The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is expanding a state quarantine for the imported fire ant to include all of Graham, Halifax and Macon counties effective Jan. 1, 2016. With the expansion, the quarantine now includes portions or entire areas of 74 counties. Johnston and all surrounding counties were previously included in the quarantine area.
The quarantine continues efforts to monitor the spread of this pest and address mitigation or control measures. Under quarantine rules, residents and business owners in these counties will 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 nursery stock, sod, soil, hay and straw, logs or pulpwood with soil, and soil-moving equipment. Also, the movement of any other products, items or infested materials that present a risk of spread from established imported fire ant areas to non-infested areas is prohibited.
“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. “Fire ants can be harmful to humans and livestock. It is critical we continue proactive efforts to slow down fire ant movement into non-infested areas of the state.”
The imported fire ant was first identified 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, Cox said. The imported fire ant is considered to be a nuisance and a health concern to humans, livestock and wildlife due to its painful sting.