Contact: Elaine Lidholm, 804.786.7686fireant

 On August 4, 2009, the Virginia Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services voted to make permanent an Imported Fire Ant (IFA) quarantine in the Tidewater area.  Todd P. Haymore, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), announced a temporary quarantine on June 24 for 11 Virginia localities:  the counties of James City and York and the cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg.  The same localities are included in the permanent quarantine.

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 (see note below by State Apiarist, Keith Tignor), and logs, pulp wood or stump wood with soil attached.

Regulated articles that are certified free of imported fire ants can be transported out of the quarantined area.  Businesses and individuals that ship regulated articles out of the quarantine on a regular basis can enter into a compliance agreement with VDACS that allows for self-certification of regulated articles.  Regulated articles shipped under a compliance agreement do not require inspection.  VDACS held two informational meetings in the Tidewater area in July to talk to business owners and consumers about the quarantine.  To date, several nurseries are operating under certificates issued by VDACS' Office of Plant and Pest Services (OPPS).  To provide a transition period for nurseries, OPPS is certifying the nursery stock is IFA-free, providing these nurseries the opportunity to adjust to the requirements of the quarantine.  Other businesses have compliance agreements for moving soil and VDACS is working with more that want a compliance agreement.

"I have been extremely pleased with the way Tidewater businesses have taken responsibility for certifying their products to be fire ant free," said Commissioner Haymore.  "They understand the importance of halting the spread of fire ants into other parts of the state and are taking this quarantine very seriously.  They tell us that business continues to move at its regular pace but also assure us that they are taking every precaution not to introduce fire ants into other, unaffected parts of the state."

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.

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 December 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 quarantine 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.

Regarding the fire ant quarantine, there is a provision in the quarantine related to bee hives. A beekeeper moving hives out of a quarantined area will require a compliance agreement. The agreement pertains to hive stands or pallets. In essence the hive(s) will need to be off the ground within the quarantine area. The stand/pallet, if moved with the hive(s), will need to be free of soil. 

Keith Tignor 
Apiarist/Endangered Species Coordinator 

VA Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services 
Office of Plant and Pest Services 
P.O. Box 1163 
Richmond, VA 23218 

Phone: (804) 786-3515 
Fax number: (804) 371-7793 


Last Updated (Friday, 26 August 2016 14:45)