Information for Texas Residents

Disturbed fire ant mound, ants crawling up a boot.  Photo by Bart Drees.

Disturbed fire ant mound, ants crawling up a boot. Photo by Bart Drees.

In 1997, the Texas Legislature funded the Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Plan through Texas A&M AgriLife Research. This initiative has supported research, regulatory and outreach education programs.

Result Demonstration and Applied Research Reports

Applied research has primarily been conducted by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Examples of reports generated from laboratory and field applied research and demonstration efforts can be viewed and downloaded from the Fire Ant Research & Management Project website. One example of a sequence of efforts beginning with laboratory assessment and ultimately verifying efficacy in the field is in the document describing the development of Extinguish (s-methoprene) fire ant bait. See Evaluation of Red Imported Fire Ant Baits Containing Methoprene.

All result demonstration and applied research reports conducted by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension can be found as PDF files in the Research section of the Fire Ant Research & Management Project website. Choose the Result Demonstrations or Urban IPM Handbook search option.

Reports are formatted as PDF booklets, but can be searched or scanned with the Adobe Reader bookmark function.

For individuals or entities interested in learning about how to determine if a fire ant control product is effective, see Fire Ant Management Product Evaluations.


Regulatory Information

Federal Regulations

The red imported fire ant is an exotic invasive pest ant species. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) has quarantined counties in Texas infested with this species.

The Code of Federal Regulations (Title 7, Volume 5, Parts 300 to 399, Revised as of January 1, 2003, Page 87-104), entitled Subpart–Imported Fire Ant, TITLE 7–AGRICULTURE CHAPTER III–ANIMAL AND PLANT HEALTH INSPECTION SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE PART 301–DOMESTIC QUARANTINE NOTICES, provides information about the imported fire ant quarantine.

The Soil Inhabiting Pest Section (SIPS) is an applied research facility located in Gulfport, Mississippi. The principal mission of this facility is to conduct applied research on methods of combating the imported fire ant (IFA) with the development of population suppression and quarantine technology as the ultimate objective. This is the facility for developing new quarantine technologies. Technology and scientific information developed by SIPS is utilized by PPQ, USDA’s State Plant Regulatory Officials (SPROs), the nursery industry, chemical industry, farmers, ranchers, homeowners, and other stakeholders. This agency has developed treatment programs and best management practices for movement of high-risk materials from quarantined counties to non-infested areas for articles such as:

The NAPIS Pest Tracker website publishes survey maps for pests of agricultural and forest commodities and provides links to pest news and information. The National Agricultural Pest Information System (NAPIS) stores and manages pest survey data that is collected by CAPS and other PPQ survey programs. Detection surveys are one tool used to manage the introduction of exotic pests.

State Regulations




The Texas Department of Agriculture (the department) adopts, on an emergency basis, an amendment to §19.101(b) in order to expand the quarantined area for the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren. The department conducts annual detection surveys in the counties bordering the red imported fire ant quarantined counties to monitor the sporadic encroachment of fire ant infestations. The detection surveys conducted in 2008 and in prior years indicated that Archer, Baylor, Callahan, Clay, Coke, Coleman, Concho, Crane, Crockett, Fisher, Haskell, Howard, Irion, Lubbock, Martin, Mitchell, Nolan, Reagan, Runnels, Schleicher, Scurry, Shackelford, Starr, Terrell, Throckmorton, Upton, Ward, Wilbarger, and Winkler counties have a widespread fire ant infestation beyond containment. The emergency action will slow the artificial spread of fire ants through movement of hay and nursery-floral commodities to fire ant-free areas. The nursery-floral articles from these counties will be allowed to move to the fire ant-free areas only after USDA approved quarantine treatments. Hay may only be shipped to fire ant free areas if it is stored in a manner that prohibits direct contact with the ground.

The emergency amendment adds Archer, Baylor, Callahan, Clay, Coke, Coleman, Concho, Crane, Crockett, Fisher, Haskell, Howard, Irion, Lubbock, Martin, Mitchell, Nolan, Reagan, Runnels, Schleicher, Scurry, Shackelford, Starr, Terrell, Throckmorton, Upton, Ward, Wilbarger, and Winkler counties to the list of quarantined areas, thereby restricting the movement of quarantined articles when transported from these counties to fire ant-free areas.

The department believes that it is necessary to take this immediate action to prevent the artificial spread of the red imported fire ant into non-infested areas of Texas and other states, and adoption of this quarantine on an emergency basis is both necessary and appropriate. The nursery industry as well as the hay producers in the non-infested counties are in peril because without this emergency quarantine their chances of becoming infested increase significantly. Once infested, they would be borne with the treatment expense to ship regulated articles to non-infested areas of Texas and other states. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is pressuring the department to quarantine the infested areas to reduce artificial spread of the ants to other states.

Amended §19.101 expands the quarantined area in correspondence with the detection of the red imported fire ant outside the current quarantined area. The department will be proposing adoption of this rule amendment on a permanent basis in a separate submission.

The amended section is adopted on an emergency basis under the Texas Agriculture Code, §71.004, which provides the Texas Department of Agriculture with the authority to establish emergency quarantines; §71.007 which authorizes the department to adopt rules as necessary to protect agricultural and horticultural interests, including rules to provide for specific treatment of a grove or orchard or of infested or infected plants, plant products, or substances; and the Texas Government Code, §2001.034, which provides for the adoption of administrative rules on an emergency basis, without notice and comment.

§19.101.Quarantined Areas.
(a) (No change.)
(b) In addition to the areas described in subsection (a) of this section, Archer, Baylor, Brooks, Brown, Cameron, Callahan, Clay, Coke, Coleman, Concho, Crane, Crockett, Delta, Dimmit, Duval, Ector, Fisher, Haskell, Hidalgo, Howard, Irion, Jack, Jones, Kenedy, Kimble, Kinney, Lamar, La Salle, Lubbock, Mason, Martin, Maverick, McCulloch, Midland, Mills, Mitchell, Montague, Nolan, Palo Pinto, Reagan, Red River, Runnels, San Saba, Schleicher, Scurry, Shackelford, Starr, Stephens, Terrell, Throckmorton, Upton, Val Verde, Ward, Webb, Wilbarger, Willacy, Winkler, Young, and Zavala counties in Texas are quarantined.

This agency hereby certifies that the emergency adoption has been reviewed by legal counsel and found to be within the agency’s legal authority to adopt.

Filed with the Office of the Secretary of State on November 5, 2008.

TRD-200805815 Dolores Alvarado Hibbs General Counsel Texas Department of Agriculture Effective Date: November 5, 2008 Expiration Date: March 4, 2009

For further information, please call: (512) 463-4075

End November 2008 update

The Texas Department of Agriculture implements the quarantine regulations in the state and continues to survey additional counties for the spread of this pest to new areas.

Other maps are available at the Fire Ant Plan website.

The Texas Administrative Code (Title 4 Agriculture, Part 1, Chapter 19, “Quarantines and Noxious Invasive Plants,” provides information about the red imported fire ant quarantine in Texas.

(a) Quarantined articles include:

  1. the red imported fire ant in any living state of development;
  2. soil, compost, decomposed manure, humus, muck, and peat, separately or with other things;
  3. plants with roots with soil attached;
  4. grass sod;
  5. baled hay and baled straw stored in direct contact with the ground;
  6. logs, pulpwood, and stumpwood; and
  7. used mechanized soil-moving equipment.

(b) Any other products, articles, or means of conveyance of any character whatsoever, not covered by subsection (a) of this section, are quarantined articles when it is determined that they present a hazard of spread of red imported fire ants and the person in possession thereof has been so notified.

However, certain restrictions apply. From Rule 19.103:
(a) Quarantined articles from the quarantined area are prohibited entry into or through the free areas of Texas, except as provided in subsections (b) and (c) below:

(b) Exemptions. The following quarantined articles are exempt from permit requirements:

  1. soil samples of one pound or less which are packaged so that no soil will be spilled in transit;
  2. soil samples of any size collected and shipped to any United States Army Corps of Engineers soil laboratory;
  3. compost, decomposed manure, humus, and peat, if dehydrated, ground, pulverized, or compressed;
  4. logs and pulpwood; provided, the railroad loading site has been treated;
  5. stumpwood, if free of excessive amounts of soil; provided the railroad loading site has been treated and the stumpwood is consigned to a designated plant;
  6. used mechanized soil-moving equipment, if free of quarantined articles; other exemptions may be granted upon departmental review.

(c) Exceptions. Shipments from quarantined areas are allowed entry into or through the free areas under the following conditions:

  1. A phytosanitary certificate or permit must accompany the movement of quarantined articles from any quarantined area into or through any point outside thereof.
  2. Phytosanitary certificates or permits may be issued by an inspector or under the authority of a compliance agreement if the quarantined articles: have originated in certified imported fire ant free premises in a quarantined area and have not been exposed to infestation while within the quarantined area; or upon examination, have been found to be free of infestation; or have been treated to destroy infestation in accordance with approved procedures; or have been grown, produced, manufactured, stored, or handled in such a manner that no infestation would be transmitted.
  3. Phytosanitary certificates or permits shall be securely attached to the outside of the container in which the articles are moved except where the certificate or permit is attached to the shipping document and the quarantined articles are adequately described on the shipping document or on the certificate or permit.

For movement of hay bales:

  1. The hay in direct contact with soil is ineligible for shipment from the quarantines counties to IFA-free counties of Texas and other states.
  2. The IFA-quarantined states may or may not accept hay from the quarantined counties of Texas unless certified as IFA-free. Their inspectors will have the final authority to accept or reject hay based on inspection.
  3. Hay stored on tarp, heavy plastic, cement or asphalt slab, palettes or flatbed of a trailer is eligible for shipment if stored in the area that is treated for IFA using a pesticide labeled for IFA and is free from IFA. 
  4. Hay shipper can call the TDA regional office to get the hay inspected. The TDA inspector will inspect the hay for IFA and issue a phytosanitary certificate. Each inspection will cost $30 and the certificate is valid for 15 days from the date of issuance.

If you have questions about imported fire ant quarantine and regulations, contact your local Texas Department of Agriculture inspector or:
Dr. Awinash P. Bhatkar
Texas Department of Agriculture
P.O. Box 12847
Austin, Texas 78711

March 6, 2008 letter to beekeepers who previously signed compliance agreements for certifying beehive equipment for fire ants

People to Contact for Help

HOUSTON and surrounding counties

Dr. Paul Nester
Extension Program Specialist – Urban IPM
Harris County
3033 Bear Creek Drive
Houston, TX 77084
Phone: 281.855.5600
Fax: 281.855.5638

AUSTIN and surrounding counties

Wizzie Brown
Extension Program Specialist- Urban IPM
Travis/Williamson Counties
1600-B Smith Rd.
Austin, TX 78721
Phone: 512.708.4797
Fax: 512.473.9611

SAN ANTONIO and surrounding counties

Molly Keck
Exension Program Specialist-Urban IPM
3355 Cherry Ridge, Suite 212
San Antonio, TX 78230
Phone: 210.467.6575
Fax: 210.930.1753