Fire away! This past June, South Korea asked the entomology experts at Texas A&M to assist them with their recent red fire ant invasion. Entomologists at Texas A&M are familiar with red fire ants because they are a common pest in Texas.
Texas A&M receives credibility for controlling red fire ants from their collaborative work with Australia to help establish a control plan. According to AgriLife Today, Dr. Robert Puckett, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologist in urban and structural insects, advised government officials in Australia on insecticides and baits to use, when to use them and what level of control to expect when treating the red fire ants. Australia recently placed a halt on things like moving soil, mulch, potted plants and anything else that might inadvertently move fire ants, according to Dr. David Ragsdale, Texas A&M.
South Korea, on the other hand, has mobilized within weeks of the invasion, making it easier to control the pests and prevent them from invading further. Researchers at the Korean Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency, or APQA, an agency equivalent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant and Protection and Quarantine, contacted Texas A&M almost immediately due to lack of experts in their own country.
Dr. David Ragsdale from Texas A&M told AgriLife Today, “Entomologists from Korea plan to visit our department in September to, among other things, establish a network of experts in the areas of ecology, physiology, integrated pest management and genomics in fire ants to help them deal with the pest proactively. They also want to establish an ongoing international collaboration with our department.”
Rasgale says how he expects to receive visits from other countries as red fire ant invasions will continue to spread across the globe due to world commerce. Containers used to ship overseas are not airtight or ant-proof and ants find a way inside containers sitting on docks waiting to be loaded for shipment. As far as inspection, only about 2 percent of containers are checked, therefore the spread of red fire ants will not end anytime soon.
Pest management professionals should advise their customers to check any containers that have been shipped long distances before you open them, and when sending out containers, do not leave them outside or on the ground for any period of time. This will help reduce the mobility of the ants and protect your shipped items as well. For more on red fire ants, go here: Texas A&M: Red fire ant frequently asked questions.