Southern sources of hay may likely carry red imported fire ants (RIFA) so livestock producers in drought areas are being advised to get much needed hay from northern sources. Or, to insist that hay shipped in from the south be inspected and certified by the USDA Animal Health and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) as free of red imported fire ants. Because of the drought, many livestock producers are having to source feed and forage from out of state.
The University of Missouri Extension reports a southwest Missouri farmer was bitten by the fire ants when he was unloading hay from Florida. They use the word, “attacked.” The biting ants are rarely fatal to people or livestock but they are painful. And, if they become established they can damage soybeans and other crops. They will also nest in electrical equipment and cause damage.
M-U Extension says people “should treat all hay as if it’s at risk and take the highest possible precautions.” Even if it’s been inspected by APHIS, they say, farmers should carefully inspect hay for the red fire ants themselves.