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Information About Fire Ants

Wayne Bailey, MU Field and Forage Crop Extension Entomologist

Severe drought conditions found in most of Missouri have forced many cattlemen to purchase hay from more southern and southeastern states such as Arkansas, Texas, Georgia, and Florida. Large hay bales being imported from these states have the potential to also transport fire ant colonies into Missouri. The fire ant is a serious pest in many southern states, but has generally not survived in Missouri due to our colder winter temperatures. With warmer winters prevailing in recent years, the risk of establishing viable fire ant colonies also increases. The main part of a fire ant colony is located underground where a queen lives and reproduces. Worker ants will move out of the colony to forage for food and quickly attack anything that might block or interrupt their foraging activities. If fire ant infested hay arrives in Missouri and is placed on the soil, the ants contained within the bales may quickly move to form an underground colony. If colonies are established, insecticide applications to the mound may help reduce numbers of ants, but may not destroy the colony queen without multiple sprays. Any colonies also should be monitored often for ant activity and to determine if winter conditions killed the colony. Once established, fire ant colonies will produce additional queen ants which will disperse some distance from the source colony and establish a new satellite colony. Once several colonies are established in an area, they become very difficult to eliminate.

Producers, please be aware that hay coming from south of mid Arkansas is in a fire ant quarantine area. This hay needs a certificate from USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) saying it is fire ant free.

More information can be found on the USDA-APHIS page:

If you are a producer in a southern state and want to move hay to Missouri, you may contact the USDA-APHIS-PPQ State Plant Health Director of your state for a certification for movement. The contact information can be found at

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