80.3 F
San Fernando
Wednesday, Sep 27, 2023


By JASON BOOTH Staff Reporter Just as Angelenos were getting used to the arrival of the killer bee, they have another insect to worry about: the red imported fire ant. With a sting that can cause severe pain, swelling and in a few cases death, the red ant already has infested Orange County and is starting to gain a foothold in L.A. Among the hardest hit are plant nurseries, which face new restrictions on the transportation and handling of soil. Because the movement of potted plants can easily spread fire ants, nurseries are required to take measures (like setting traps and spraying soils with insecticides) to prevent infestation. They are not, however, receiving any financial aid to do so. “The state has given some money to the county to combat the ant,” said Russell Wojcik, plant protection manager at the 400-acre Monrovia Nursery in Azusa. “But none of that has trickled down to us.” A number of fire-ant colonies have been identified in Asuza, and portions of that San Gabriel Valley city have been quarantined. Individual colonies have been identified from Torrance to the Riverside County line. Wojcik said his company is spending tens of thousands of dollars on ant traps and pesticides to prevent infestation of its plants. It’s a price worth paying, he said, because if the nursery were to become infested, the bill for eradicating the pest would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The construction industry also is being impacted. In Orange County, soil-transportation restrictions are making it difficult for construction crews to dispose of dirt that was excavated from construction sites. Delays also are being caused by the requirement that all earth-moving equipment be thoroughly cleaned before it is transported. Much like the killer bees that have also recently infested Los Angeles, the red ant is migrating into the United States from South America. It is estimated that $300 million in private and public money is already being spent each year in Texas to contain the ant. Orange Country Supervisor Todd Spitzer said it will take around $100 million over a five-year period to eradicate the red ant in Orange County. No comparable estimates are available for L.A. County, but a regional eradication effort is crucial, several sources agreed. “It’s going to take a concerted effort from everyone to control this pest,” said Cato Fiksdal, agricultural commissioner for the County of Los Angeles. “And it isn’t going to be done quickly.”

Previous article
Next article

Featured Articles

Related Articles