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Moving ants across borders?


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30 replies to this topic

Poll: Does the plant pest act include ALL ants? (15 member(s) have cast votes)

Does the plant pest act include ALL ants?

  1. yes (5 votes [33.33%])

    Percentage of vote: 33.33%

  2. No (10 votes [66.67%])

    Percentage of vote: 66.67%

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#1 Offline Ants4fun - Posted April 30 2015 - 7:15 PM

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many people think that it is illegal for queen ants to cross state borders... Or is it? A big reason is because of the Plant pest act. http://byformica.com...nt_Pest_Act.pdf(Thanks, Terry, for the link) It says that 'plant pests' are not allowed to move across boarders. And it says this about what a plant pest is and a quote, "Any living stage of the following that can directly or indirectly injure, cause damage to, or cause disease in any plant or plant product... B. Any nonhuman animal." I think that most ants aren't included in that category, and even if they were why would companies sell Pogonomyrmex ants (which cause damage to plant seeds) if any living stage is included? I think that one could move a small colony across the boarder if they were native there as well. Your opinions?


(I am not supporting illegal activity, but rather wanted to get people's view on the matter.

Edited by Ants4fun, April 30 2015 - 7:31 PM.

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#2 Offline Alza - Posted April 30 2015 - 8:15 PM

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They sell only pogonomyrmex workers, and not queens, simply because they won't be able to start colonies in locations they arent native to, for instance, New york. And they are actually beneficial, and destructive at the same time. Also depends on the species, as Pogonomyrmex californicus is not destructive to plants, but barbatus is.


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#3 Offline Alza - Posted April 30 2015 - 8:17 PM

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With that said, Yes, but to an extent. A plant pest control person could categorize pogonomyrmex as pest's due to stinging on plants and other soft objects when threatened, or simply gathering and eating seeds. They are the most peaceful a wild omnivore can get, in my opinion


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#4 Offline Myrmicinae - Posted May 3 2015 - 10:00 AM

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I don't think any of us here have the answers for you, although Dr. Trager would probably have an idea.  My advice would be to send an email to a local USDA representative with your scenario.  You could also use this service to contact someone: http://www.usda.gov/...vid=ASK_EXPERT2


Edited by Myrmicinae, May 3 2015 - 10:06 AM.

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#5 Offline Ants4fun - Posted May 3 2015 - 10:56 AM

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Thanks for the link. I also wonder how to get a permit... it would be awesome to keep tropical ants...

#6 Offline Barristan - Posted May 3 2015 - 11:29 AM

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Is this the only reason why you may not keep exotic ants?

As an European I would like to know how this influences the export to Europe. Let's say someone would sell me some ants from Florida. The plane wouldn't cross any other state borders on it's travel to Europe. Would that be legal?

 

Does this law also effect planes flying accros state borders without landing in another state?



#7 Offline Ants4fun - Posted May 3 2015 - 12:21 PM

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Ants usually can't go inside or outside the country as well.



#8 Offline drtrmiller - Posted May 3 2015 - 2:07 PM

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You're asking for a legal opinion.  You won't find qualified legal advice on this forum.

 

While the official position of byFormica is to contact your local regulatory agency, it should be noted that doing so is about like asking the police if it's okay to do something.  Not even they have all the right answers, and are more likely to provide a wrong answer that errs on the safe side, than a wrong one that could put someone in violation of some sort of law they are in charge of enforcing.

 

Rather than asking the agency, "is it legal to do this," I would recommend asking something similar to: "what laws apply to the capture, sale, and interstate travel of ants in the United States?"

 

And yes, the Plant Protection Act also forbids the export of plant pests outside the United States. So Barristan's example would still be problematic.


Edited by drtrmiller, May 3 2015 - 2:09 PM.

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#9 Offline Ants4fun - Posted May 3 2015 - 2:12 PM

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I was just encouraging a duscussion. The comments would have no impact on wether or not I would ship ants across borders...

Edited by Ants4fun, May 3 2015 - 2:12 PM.


#10 Offline drtrmiller - Posted May 6 2015 - 3:19 PM

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Drew pointed me to a Facebook discussion from about a year ago.  It's funny how some people can cite a law as a justification for why something is or isn't allowed, but have no idea how to read or interpret it.

 

Three points in a nutshell (click links for full text):
  • Lacey Act
    • Prohibits all collection, transport, sale, etc. of all wildlife where explicitly protected by other law, and requires wildlife shipments to be marked as such
    • Defines wildlife as basically any organism existing primarily in nature, outside of captivity
    • Does not prohibit any action related to interstate travel of ants, except where restricted by other laws (see below)
  • Plant Protection Act
    • Prohibits import, export, or interstate travel of all plant pests
    • Plant pest defined by law as "any living stage of [an organism] that can directly or indirectly injure, cause damage to, or cause disease in any plant or plant product"
  • USPS Publication 52 (Restricted items)
    • Requires all live animals to be marked with a "Live Animals" label
    • Defines packaging requirements for all live animals (to protect animals in transit and safety of postal workers)
    • Prohibits mailing of "Poisonous Insects and Spiders" outright, except for scorpions (Note that bees are not classified as poisonous insects)
    • Defines requirements for shipping other "Small, Harmless, Cold–Blooded Animals"

Does anyone know of any other applicable statutes?  I'd love to read them.


Edited by drtrmiller, May 6 2015 - 5:00 PM.

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#11 Offline cpman - Posted May 6 2015 - 3:22 PM

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Lots of place have local ones too. I'm not too familiar with the ones around here.
I'm fine with the system as it is now, but it seems like it makes it a hassle for labs that want to study nonnative ants...

Also, the restrictions on ants under that act are presumably because of their "farming" of scale and aphids. Many, if not most, species of ant will participate in it.

Edited by cpman, May 6 2015 - 3:24 PM.


#12 Offline drtrmiller - Posted May 6 2015 - 3:33 PM

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Lots of place have local ones too. I'm not too familiar with the ones around here.
I'm fine with the system as it is now, but it seems like it makes it a hassle for labs that want to study nonnative ants...

Also, the restrictions on ants under that act are presumably because of their "farming" of scale and aphids. Many, if not most, species of ant will participate in it.

 

Correct. It is illegal to ship dubia roaches to or within the state of Florida, for example.  I read about a guy who was prosecuted for it.  Such cases are extremely rare, and I've never heard of a case involving ants within the U.S., however.

 

I'm not going to delve too deep into the aphids business. Just imagine you're a USDA agent, and you have to convince a prosecutor that he can and should pursue a case against some small-time Joe selling Lasius ants because the ants offer some protection to aphids, a plant pest.  That's quite a sell.


Edited by drtrmiller, May 6 2015 - 3:34 PM.

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#13 Offline Ants4fun - Posted May 6 2015 - 3:35 PM

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Then why don't I see any ant colonies for sale on the internet?

Edited by Ants4fun, May 6 2015 - 3:35 PM.


#14 Offline drtrmiller - Posted May 6 2015 - 3:46 PM

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Then why don't I see any ant colonies for sale on the internet?

 

In my personal opinion, it's because of a lack of clarity, and the spread of misinformation.  No one takes the time to read and understand the statutes themselves. Instead, people rely on others' interpretation of sometimes complex legal text, and then pass that along like a game of "Telephone," and the message becomes increasingly distorted.

 

Many in the scientific community frown upon the practice of selling or transporting ants, as well.  Sometimes, people choose not to do a thing, not because of a fear of criminal or civil prosecution, but because they want to get along with others in the community.

 

Again, I'd be happy to read any an all actual statutes or other regulatory text that's presented to me, since I'm trying to determine how to best go about setting up my marketplace for other users to engage in the practice of buying and selling.



#15 Offline dspdrew - Posted May 6 2015 - 5:09 PM

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What if I put the queen down and let her walk across the border on her own six feet, and then pick her up on the other side?


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#16 Offline Myrmicinae - Posted May 6 2015 - 5:52 PM

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Below is a letter that Marcus shared on the "AntsCanBePets" Facebook group.  It is from the senior entomologist at PPQ.

 

Marcus,

I can appreciate the challenge in trying to understand USDA permit requirements for ants. The requirements vary depending on the details of the desired plan. Ants sold by Uncle Milton and other supply companies include only worker or soldier ants, no queens. The seller of these ants is required to have a permit from USDA APHIS to distribute to each state where customers reside. They also have permits for the company to receive ants should the ants originate from outside the state of operation. The customer purchasing ants is not required to get a permit for worker ants for ant farms. Reproductive ants require a USDA APHIS permit.

No USDA permits are required for movement and possession of ants within your home state unless you are working with Red Imported Fire Ant outside a quarantine zone.

Transporting live ants across state lines requires a PPQ 526 plant pest permit for the recipient of the ants.

Additional information about PPQ 526 plant pest permits can be found at:
http://www.aphis.usd...ism/index.shtml

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Wayne Wehling, PhD
Senior Entomologist
USDA APHIS PPQ
Pest Permitting Branch
4700 River Rd., Unit 133
Riverdale, MD 20737
New Phone: 301-851-2336
FAX: 301-734-8700
wayne.f.wehling@aphis.usda.gov


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#17 Offline drtrmiller - Posted May 6 2015 - 6:02 PM

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Below is a letter that Marcus shared on the "AntsCanBePets" group.  It is from the senior entomologist at PPQ.

 

 

Dr. Wehling is in my contacts, and I've corresponded with him before regarding some other things.

 

I'm not sure what you're adding to the conversation, as there is a great divide between how the USDA chooses to enforce provisions of statutes such as the Plant Protection Act, and what is actually permitted or disallowed by the statutes themselves.

 

People need to understand that the USDA is an enforcement arm of government, much like the police. They do not write or interpret the laws as written.  USDA issues permits that are consistent with their enforcement powers, but is not the final legal authority in determining what is and isn't allowed under law—that would be the courts.

 

To put it another way, the Plant Protection Act itself gives the Secretary of Agriculture a wide net.  The USDA, just trying to do their job of enforcing the law, tells citizens that a permit is required, even though there may be no legal basis for the issuance of one under a strict reading of the "plant pest" definition.

 

For example, would Odontomachus clarus transported from Arizona to Idaho qualify as a plant pest, subject to the Plant Protection Act, or any other statute?  I'm not a lawyer, but my opinion is that it probably would not.  But ask the USDA if a permit is required, and they will likely give you the same canned response they've given countless others, just to be on the safe side.

 

Again, I'd request that actual statutes be examined in whole as a matter of guiding policy decisions I have to make in running my site.  I probably won't make policy decisions based on enforcement agency recommendations unless they reach out to me or sellers on the site directly with an actual legal basis for the guideline.


Edited by drtrmiller, May 6 2015 - 7:02 PM.


#18 Offline Myrmicinae - Posted May 7 2015 - 6:48 AM

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I'm not sure what you're adding to the conversation, as there is a great divide between how the USDA chooses to enforce provisions of statutes such as the Plant Protection Act, and what is actually permitted or disallowed by the statutes themselves.

 

People need to understand that the USDA is an enforcement arm of government, much like the police. They do not write or interpret the laws as written.  USDA issues permits that are consistent with their enforcement powers, but is not the final legal authority in determining what is and isn't allowed under law—that would be the courts.

 

...

 

Again, I'd request that actual statutes be examined in whole as a matter of guiding policy decisions I have to make in running my site.  I probably won't make policy decisions based on enforcement agency recommendations unless they reach out to me or sellers on the site directly with an actual legal basis for the guideline.

 

I have family members in the USDA.  Part of their job is indeed to interpret regulations, although perhaps not in an official sense.  Otherwise, they would be unable to reliably enforce them.  Any fines that the USDA decides to impose for transporting insects would be costly to avoid, regardless of whether they are based on sound legal principles.  However, I understand what you are trying to get at and generally agree.  I can't see "plant pest" applying to all (or even most) ants, when natural history is carefully considered.

 

Personally, ethics are the most important consideration for me.  I believe that interstate trade of ants would cause more harm than good, even if invasive (and potentially invasive) species are entirely excluded.  Small-scale is probably fine, but, as more people become involved in the hobby, such a system could have dramatic effects, e.g., over-collection of rare species, spread of parasites/pathogens.


Edited by Myrmicinae, May 7 2015 - 6:59 AM.

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#19 Offline Miles - Posted May 7 2015 - 7:43 AM

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I find that ecological risks are much more convincing than the threat of legal action by moving an ant across a state border. I live on the Washington-Idaho border, and I could easily be walking along a path, collecting queens, and inadvertently transporting these queens across a state line that intersects the path in an invisible line.


Edited by Miles, May 7 2015 - 8:34 AM.

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Hi, I'm Miles! I study ants, environmental science, political science, and science communication at Montana State University in Bozeman. I've been keeping ants for nearly a decade and I'm passionate about conservation and public service.

 

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#20 Offline drtrmiller - Posted August 5 2015 - 8:45 PM

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I've been thinking about this some more:

  • Plant Protection Act (click link to read full text)
    • Prohibits import, export, or interstate travel of all plant pests
    • Plant pest defined by law as "any living stage of [an organism] that can directly or indirectly injure, cause damage to, or cause disease in any plant or plant product"

It is an almost undisputable fact that humans cause more damage, both direct and indirect, to plants and plant products, than any other organism on the face of the earth.

 

Therefore, the Plant Protection Act may technically prohibit the travel of humans from one state to another.


Edited by drtrmiller, August 5 2015 - 8:58 PM.

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