Fire Ants Could Be Headed To Tulsa Area

Thursday, April 2nd 2009, 4:51 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley and Scott Thompson

TULSA, OK -- Fire ants are on the move and federal officials have added 12 more Oklahoma counties to the quarantine area.

Fire ants were first found in Alabama in the 1930s. Since then, they have hitched a ride through the south and local farmers are worried Tulsa is the next stop.

Fire ants are small, fast and very dangerous.

"When interfered with they can sting or bite," said Bruce Peverley, agriculture educator with the OSU Extension office.

Peverley says fire ants pose a number of problems for both humans and animals.

"The little buggers attack all types of wildlife and then also newborn calves, fawns can be affected, they attack quail eggs," he said.

Fire ants came from the south. Florida and Louisiana are under quarantine, meaning certain plants and farm equipment must be inspected before leaving.

Eight other states, including Oklahoma, have several counties under quarantine.

The USDA had previously had nine Oklahoma counties in quarantine, but this week another 12 counties were added to the list.

The closest to Tulsa is LeFlore County along the border.

"They have continued to come north," Peverley said. "It has been a slow but sure progress. So potentially, yes, we could probably see them in Tulsa County.

At Tulsa Grass and Sod in Bixby, owner Ray Volentine says there's no sign of fire ants now but with the quarantined counties creeping north he's getting worried.

"Concern is always there," Volentine said. "It just takes one guy thinking he's getting a bargain load from Texas or Arkansas and once you got them in, they're going to leap frog from one yard to the next."

His advice is to be wary of where the plants or sod you are buying is coming from. He says don't be afraid to ask.

"Be inquisitive," Volentine said. "Find out where it came from. If it's grown locally they're probably good shape. If it came from south or southeast ... make sure there's a little caution involved."

Volentine says the sod you find in the Tulsa area is grown locally and shipped south. He says you should be concerned if what you're buying is coming from Arkansas or Texas.