This State Is Under Quarantine Due to Fire Ants—11 Others Could Be Next

This summer menace could be ready to overtake your state, officials warn.

Summer is prime time for encounters with all manner of unpleasant pests, from mosquitoes to snakes to cicadas. However, this year, certain parts of the U.S. are home to an influx of an unexpected intruder: fire ants. In fact, the infestation has gotten so bad that one state has had to quarantine—and experts warn that others could follow. Read on to discover if your state is affected, and what to do to mitigate your risk of an infestation.

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Multiple counties in Arkansas are under fire ant quarantine.

fire ants on a leaf

The Southwest Times Record reports that 43 counties in Arkansas are now subject to federal quarantine regulations due to the spread of fire ants within the state, with four new counties added to the quarantine zone in the last week alone.

To limit the spread of fire ants—both to Arkansas counties outside the quarantine zone and other states—the state is now limiting the transport of materials including soil, sod, nursery stock with soil or potting media, baled straw that has been stored in contact with soil, baled hay that has been stored in contact with soil, or used soil-moving equipment.

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The fire ant quarantine area could spread to these 11 additional states.

fire ant finger
Shutterstock/Chutinan 168

It's not Arkansas alone that is going into quarantine to limit the spread of these pests and their painful stings.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in addition to Arkansas, the list of states with areas subject to federal quarantine now includes Alabama, California, Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, and Virginia. Black and red fire ants were likely brought to the U.S. via soil used as stabilizing material on cargo ships that launched from destinations in South America in 1918 and the 1930s, respectively. Today, there are five times as many fire ants per acre on U.S. soil as there are in South America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fire ants can sometimes cause serious reactions in humans.

In the Hospital Sick Male Patient Sleeps on the Bed. Heart Rate Monitor Equipment is on His Finger.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, fire ant stings most often result in itchy, localized swelling that subsides within an hour and results in a pus-filled blister that may scar.

However, the USDA reports that, in rare cases, fire ant stings can result in anaphylactic shock, a rare allergic reaction that can cause difficulty breathing, unconsciousness, or even death.

If you encounter fire ants, follow specific protocol.

emergency room sign

If you happen upon fire ants, following specific steps can help reduce your risk of a severe reaction. The CDC recommends brushing off the ants if you notice them on you and taking antihistamines if you have been bitten.

If you experience difficulty breathing, extreme swelling, intense sweating, nausea, severe chest pain, or slurred speech, go to the emergency room immediately.

RELATED: If You See This Bug, Never Touch It Without Gloves & a Mask, Experts Warn.


Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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