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Sun Mar 22, 2020, 10:37 AM

Virginia Beach Temps Up 3F Since 1960 - Northward Movements Of Fire Ants One Of Many Results


Since 1960, the annual average temperature in Virginia Beach, the region’s most populated city, has risen about 3 degrees, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That warming trend has opened the door for fire ants — normally living in more southerly areas — to gain a stubborn foothold in the state, Virginia agricultural officials say. And it’s growing larger. “It’s an unfortunate side effect” of climate change, said Eric Day, a Virginia Tech extension entomologist. “We have warmer winters and warmer summers, so it certainly makes for good conditions for fire ants.”

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced in December that it was expanding its fire ant quarantine to five new counties and two separate cities. With the addition, the quarantine now spans one or two counties deep along the North Carolina border from just west of Interstate 95 east to the Atlantic Ocean, an area nearly the size of Connecticut.

The quarantine applies to both the black and red fire ant varieties, but the red is more commonly seen in Virginia, officials say. Both damage crops and deliver a nasty sting.

Since their accidental transmittal from South America to the United States in the 1930s, red fire ants have spread across most of the Southeast from the marshy tip of Florida to the windswept plains of Oklahoma. When the first fire ant infestation was discovered in Virginia in 1989, agricultural officials blamed the interstate trade of plants and sod. They grew so widespread that by 2009 the state announced its first quarantine in the Hampton Roads region.



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