The two pesticides slated for initial use are hydramethylnon, a slow-acting insecticide that prevents ants from turning food into energy, and pyriproxyfen, an insect growth inhibitor. Both would be used as ground bait to attract ants.
The Agriculture Department "does not expect that there will be significant environmental or health effects, as a result of application of baits" used against the fire ant, the state plan states.
The department, moreover, is not required to prepare environmental impact reports since the state itself will not be applying pesticides, the plan states. And California law allows the state Department of Pesticide Regulation to conduct an abbreviated review of new pesticides, not a full-scale environmental review.
Whether the new plan can actually rid the state of fire ants remains uncertain. A panel of scientists said earlier that efforts to eradicate the ant could be futile without aerial pesticide spreading.
"I think it's going to be extremely difficult to do it from the ground," said Walter Tschinkel, a panel member and professor of biological sciences at Florida State University. "You have to enter every area that possibly has fire ants, look for them, and you have to be able to treat them. With private property areas and things of that nature, I just wonder if it has a reasonable chance of success."
And environmentalists, customarily leery of pesticides, are alarmed at the damage fire ants could wreak on California's environment.
"I am gravely concerned over the impacts of fire ants on the native ecology," said Dan Silver of the Endangered Habitats League, "and I think we need to take aggressive steps to control these while the outbreak is relatively limited, before such time that things are hopeless."