APHIS suggests hay buyers follow these practices to help reduce infestations:
- Visually inspect the bales on delivery.
- If possible, request the hay be certified for movement by the state from which it is shipped.
- If you suspect infestation, place bait such as a dab of peanut butter or a piece of sausage on the bale and check for ants after an hour.
If you bought hay from parts of the southern U.S. you may have accidentally brought along the imported fire ant--an aggressive, stinging insect native to South America. Fire ants have infested more than 380 million acres in at least 13 states, according to the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The ants can spread to new locations as stowaways in bales of hay.
The ants are reddish-brown or black in color and are 1/8- to 1/4-inch long, according to APHIS.
APHIS is enforcing a federal quarantine that regulates the transport of certain items, including baled hay that has been in direct contact with the ground, soil, grass sod and soil-moving equipment. Regulated items cannot be moved outside the quarantine area unless certified by federal or state inspectors. The quarantine area includes all of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Puerto Rico; large portions of Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas; and small parts of California, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
You can find out if a particular location is under quarantine through the APHIS Web site by viewing a quarantine map or entering a ZIP code. The site contains extensive information about imported fire ants, including guidelines for producers and purchasers of baled hay.
Click here to read more from the University of Missouri Extension Web site.