FIRE! (Ants, that is…)
What To Look For
Fire ants prefer warm climates and are typically found in the sunny, southern states of the U.S. They like the sun and favor dry, open areas and avoid shady, moist areas. They nest underground and build mounds above ground, usually around 5 to 7 inches high and 20 to 25 inches in diameter. Fire ant mounds don’t have an entrance at the top of the mound like other ant species, they enter and exit through side openings or underground. Mounds are usually built against other structures such as walls, fences, etc.
The fire ant represents several different sub-species, with the most common being the imported red fire ant. They can be identified readily by their color and behavior. The imported red fire ant is reddish-brown, while other species can be almost orange or even very dark. Regardless of the sub-species, most fire ants are no larger than about ½ inch. Their aggressive behavior towards humans and other animals is one of their most identifiable traits.
What To Know
Colonies of fire ants can contain several hundred thousand ants and their large numbers and painful stings make up a formidable defense against other animals and insects. Fire ants are omnivorous, so they will eat meat, sweets, and vegetables. Their diet includes everything from other insects and plants to dead and even live animals under the right circumstances. One of their favorite meals is dead animals that they run across in their territory, or sometimes animals that they have killed.
Their ferocious defense and wide range of food sources enable fire ants to eradicate other insects and ants from their territories. They have very few natural predators and reproduce rapidly, making control difficult especially over large areas. When they attack, fire ants actually grip their prey and inject venom through their stinger. These stings are very painful and deter just about any invader, including humans. In addition to pain and burning, humans can experience nausea, sweating, and even death.
What To Do
Because of their aggressive nature and often large numbers, fire ants are not a pest that should be taken lightly. Once an area has been taken over by colonies of these ants, it’s usually going to take an experienced pest control company to get things under control. Even with the best treatment plan, fire ants often can’t be eliminated entirely if they have become established across a broad area.
A successful treatment plan should at the very least slow down reproduction and minimize the dangers. Individual mounds may be treated with pesticide and while this provides good, localized control, it can often be economically unfeasible. An integrated approach using biological control methods, pesticides, and other measures will usually be the most successful, economical and safe treatment.