State authorities are alerting local businesses and purchasers of tropical nursery stock of the recent detection of fire ants in a shipment of palm trees imported from Florida.

The red imported fire ants were detected during a routine check at a Sussex County business by the Delaware Department of Agriculture's Plant Industries nursery inspection team. A hold and control order was issued, and a treatment program to eliminate the fire ants is underway.

Red imported fire ants are small — 3 to 6 millimeters long — red to reddish brown ants. Mounds can be 18 inches high and three feet across, and have no visible external opening, unlike ant hills. Worker ants can sting repeatedly and will attack anything that disturbs their mounds or food sources. Venom from a fire ant attack can cause a variety of symptoms in humans and animals. Anyone finding a suspicious ant should call DDA’s Plant Industries Section at 698-4500 or 800-282-8685.

For information, visit aphis.usda.gov.