Two species of Imported Fire Ants (IFA) were introduced into the United States from South America at the port of Mobile, Alabama. The black imported fire ant, Solenopsis richteri Forel, arrived sometime around 1918 and the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren, in the late 1930's. Both species probably came to the port in soil used as ballast in cargo ships. Today, IFA infest more than 343,000,000 acres in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Puerto Rico. IFA are a major public nuisance because of their ferocious sting and aggressive behavior, and also damage several agricultural commodities.
APHIS works to prevent further IFA spread by enforcing the Federal Quarantine (7 CFR 301.81) and cooperating with IFA-infested states to regulate articles, such as nursery stock and soil-moving equipment. Also, APHIS evaluates the efficacy of regulatory treatments for preventing IFA spread by artificial means and revises regulations and procedures as necessary. APHIS works with states, industry, and other Federal agencies to develop and test promising new insecticides and biological control agents.
APHIS, along with cooperators in Agricultural Research Service and states, implement an Imported Fire Ant Phorid Fly (Pseudacteon spp.) rearing and release program. The first 2 species of this biocontrol agent, P. tricuspis and P. curvatus,were released between 2002-2009 and have become established in more than 50% of the IFA quarantined area. In 2010 there were multiple releases of the third fly species, and production rearing of a fourth species has begun.
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Last Modified: May 13, 2013