News Release
California Department of Food and Agriculture
Media Contact:
Steve Lyle, Office of Public Affairs, (916) 654-0462,
Release #02-029
California Department of Food and Agriculture partners with local Ag Commissioner to eradicate pests
SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the Merced County Agricultural Commissioner have announced a partnership to stamp out one of the state's most dangerous insects, the Red Imported Fire Ant.

A Merced County farm currently being treated for the pest is the launch site for a public education program to provide residents and visitors with the information to identify and report infestations.

Merced County currently has more than 2400 heavily infested acres that include almond orchards, grape vineyards, berry fields, and pasture. The ant mounds found in this area are the largest ever seen in California.

Red Imported Fire Ants, a non-native pest, were discovered in Orange County in 1998 and have now been reported in eight additional California counties: Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Madera, Stanislaus, Fresno and Sacramento. These aggressive insects attack anything that disturbs their nests, swarming onto people and animals and inflicting painful stings. In rare cases, the ants' venom can be life threatening. State officials have identified the pests as a threat to people, agriculture, commerce and the environment.

"Red Imported Fire Ants are a serious problem in California," said CDFA Secretary William (Bill) J. Lyons Jr. "Eradication depends on timely identification and treatment. We’re reminding Central Valley agriculture to be on the lookout for these dangerous pests.”

While many of California’s infested areas are suburban neighborhoods, several infestations—such as the one in Merced County—have been traced to out-of-state bee shipments for crop pollination in the Central Valley.

“We are pleased to team up with CDFA on this important program,” said Merced County Agricultural Commissioner Mike Tanner. “It is critical that people know the dangers posed by the Red Imported Fire Ant. It is up to all of us to rid California of this pest.”

Red Imported Fire Ants are native to South America and are believed to have arrived in the southeastern United States in the 1920s aboard cargo ships. Since then, the pest has become endemic in a dozen southeastern states. No state has eradicated it. However, CDFA is partnering with county officials in infested areas to mount a substantial eradication campaign that is showing promising results.

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California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Public Affairs
1220 N St., Ste. 214, Sacramento, CA 95814