Board OKs programs for preservation of bees, elimination of red ants

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Diane Sieker photo

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors authorized the county Office of the Agricultural Commissioner to enter into two state contracts intended to promote the eradication of red imported fire ants and the preservation of honeybees during its Tuesday, Nov. 5 meeting.

In 5-0 votes without comment, the board signed off on an $86,000 agreement with the California Department of Food and Agriculture for the fire ant elimination program and a separate $56,600 agreement with the CDFA for European honeybee protection.

Under the first compact, county agricultural staff will be responsible for overseeing a monitoring program that identifies the presence of red imported fire ants, establishing protein bait stations to draw them out and get rid of them.

The ants, which originated from Brazil and first appeared in the southeastern United States in the 1940s, are notorious for aggressiveness, inflicting poisonous stings that can range from leaving victims with minor discomfort to giving them life-threatening seizures if there’s an allergic reaction.

The ants often end up in turf or fresh soil sold and transported across state lines. They can injure or kill farm animals, as well as build nests in electrical circuitry, causing equipment to fail.

“Residents and businesses will be positively impacted, in that this program is aimed at preventing the spread of the fire ants, which are injurious to humans, landscape and exporting businesses,” according to a statement posted the board’s policy agenda.

Under the honeybee contract, agricultural staff will provide assistance to the beekeeping industry by gauging the consequences of inadequate forage for the bees and the threat of pesticides to their population.

An active effort will also be undertaken to prevent or crack down on apiary thefts and locate unregistered apiaries that require inspection for public health and safety, according to officials.

Declining honeybee colonies have been a growing concern internationally. Colonies in the U.S. have dropped by half over the last six decades, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The pollinating creatures are considered essential to keeping a wide range of crops healthy, and therefore have a direct bearing on the sustainability of the world food supply, according to scientists.