Invasive Ant Species Intercepted

Written By: Tony Linegar, Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer of Weights & Measures
Published: August 1, 2018


The Department of Agriculture/Weights & Measures inspects incoming packages at the FedEx facility in Petaluma. Biologists ensure that plant material, insects and animals being shipped to Sonoma County meet all quarantine requirements and are free of general pests and diseases.


In May 8, 2018, Agricultural Biologist David Jagdeo inspected an unmarked package from Texas being shipped to a local pet store. Upon inspection, ten vials were found, each containing a single ant. Two of the vials contained eggs along with the individual ant. The package also included two containers with numerous ants. The parcel was put on hold for pest identification. The ants were first reviewed by Dr. Lucia G. Varela of the University of California Cooperative Extension. Dr. Varela confirmed the ants were an invasive species. The ant samples were then submitted to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Plant Pest Diagnostics Laboratory for identification. The ants were identified as:


    • Solenopsis invicta (red imported fire ant): A-rated
    • Solenopsis sp. (ant): Q-rated
    • Atta sp. (leaf-cutter ant): Q-rated
    • Camponotus sp. (carpenter ant): Q-rated
    • Pachycondyla harpax (rapacious panther ant): Q-rated
    • Monomorium subopacum (ant): Q-rated


CDFA is mandated to prevent the introduction and spread of injurious insect or animal pests, plant diseases and noxious weeds. A rating system identifies the potential risk a pest creates to California’s agricultural industry and its environment. An “A” rating is the most significant, as this pest represents the largest threat to California. A “Q” rating is a temporary “A” rating, pending more research on the pest.


A notice of rejection was issued for violating California Food and Agricultural Code (FAC) Section 6461.5 (live pests), California FAC Section 6305 (transportation of live pests), and Federal Domestic Quarantine 7 CFR 301.81 (Imported Fire Ant). Smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance (USDA-SITC) was notified, and the shipment of ants was destroyed. After interviewing both the shipper and receiver, the Department performed an inspection at the pet store where four additional ant colonies were put on hold. Samples were identified and a colony containing Camponotus sp. (carpenter ant) was also destroyed.



A normal part of grape or orchard farming in Sonoma County and beyond is to replant a crop when conditions require it. Whether it is due to diminishing production for various reasons or changing the crop varietal to keep up with market fluctuations, replanting is an integral part of the long-term management of a vineyard or orchard. When that time comes, it is important to keep in mind that a Vineyard/Orchard Erosion Sediment Control Ordinance (VESCO) permit is required prior to beginning the replanting process. Vines and/or trees still need to be in the ground for the project to be considered a “replant”, which has a simpler review process than a new development.


If a farmer decided to go ahead and complete a replant project without receiving a VESCO permit from the Department, the farmer may receive a violation with a fine three to ten times the cost of the permit fee, which can really add up! In addition the violation and fine, the farmer still has to apply for a permit after the fact.


Through following up on citizen questions or complaints, reviewing air photo histories on Google Earth, or simply spotting unpermitted work happening around the County, staff has been busy issuing violations for unpermitted work. Staff would much rather issue permits than violations, so please come in with your completed VESCO application and associated maps when it is time to replant. If soil amending is part of your plan, please remember that VESCO permits are good for five years. For questions about VESCO or to schedule an intake appointment, please call (707) 565-2371.

Related Articles

Premium Members

To represent, protect and advance the social, economic and educational interests of the farmers and ranchers of Sonoma County.