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Red fire ants could be hitching a ride to Missouri

Eric Durban
Harvest Public Media
In southwest Kansas, baled hay sits in an open field.

Missouri livestock producers are looking beyond the Show Me State’s borders for hay, and many are buying it from southern states where red imported fire ants are prevalent.

The stinging insects are known to hitch rides on hay bales, and that makes some agriculture officials nervous.

Red imported fire ants are originally from South America, but are now found throughout the south.

Mike Brown is the USDA’s state plant health director. He says the ants will feed on the buds and fruits of a wide variety of plants, including corn and soybeans, and are a threat to wildlife, livestock and people.

“They are very aggressive," Brown says. Large numbers of ants will pour out of a colony and attack whatever the offending party might be, whether that is a person or an animal.”

Brown suggests livestock producers avoid hay bales that were exposed to soil. He says the insects can be controlled if they are detected early enough.

The ants have already been found and eradicated in Ozark and Howell Counties in southern Missouri.