Ken’s Quick Tip: Everything you never wanted to know about fire ants!

Fire ants are the true definition of a pest! There are roughly 5 million Americans stung by fire ants each year. Tragically about a dozen of these individual die from severe allergic reactions to the sting. Even small animals, including pets are at risk from their stings.

Fire Ant Facts…
Fire Ants were accidentally brought into this country on a cargo boat from South America. Since arriving in Alabama, fire ants have spread aggressively, though they remain primarily in the South and Southeast because northern soil temperatures make it tough to survive the winters.

Fire ants live in colonies, which can contain over 200,000 ants.

Fire ant colonies are typically comprised of female worker ants and one queen, who is responsible for laying the eggs.

Workers create underground tunnels that can extend up to 200′ to 300′ feet away from the mound.

Mounds are built to maintain a precise temperature for the colony. Fire ants shift their eggs up and down based on temperature and moisture. The record for the largest fire ant mound? A Mr. Garcia won that dubious record in 1997 with a mound that measured 18″ tall and 40″ across (Yikes!)

If stung by fire ants, it usually seems everything is normal then suddenly there are dozens or more stinging all at once. That’s not an accident. Fire ants quietly swarm but don’t sting until they perceive a threat – usually you swatting at them. At that point one will release a pheromone telling the rest to sting all at once.

Fire ants are suspicious. An excellent way of controlling them is with baits but if you disturb their bed by applying food directly on their mound, they frequently become suspicious and stop foraging.

Fire ants survive flooding waters by creating a pancake that will float in the water, surviving for weeks without losing ants and posing a hazard for any rescue workers. You can see one in action above or by clicking here (interesting but creepy factor warning!) On bare ground they will build themselves into a tower of ants that will repel rain drops.

There is no doubt that fire ants are bad business. Since pest control is part of what we do at Village Green, I’ve heard of numerous ways to control fire ants over the past 30+ years. One of my favorites came from a University study that concluded, in an amazingly understated way, that digging up the nest was ineffective because it dispersed the ants. My first thought after reading that was who was the poor undergrad who got picked to dig up the fire ant mound to see if that would get rid of them?!?!?! I certainly wouldn’t try that at home!

Now that you know more about fire ants, how do you control them if they end of your lawn or landscape?

If you want to do it yourself I recommend a combination of quick acting products such as Bifenthrin (Ortho Fire Ant Killer is a brand name) and a long lasting bait such as Amdro.At Village Green we use a product called Fiprinil for our customers, which isn’t available without a license. It is a great product and effective product because It creates a season long barrier in the soil that fire ants can’t survive in.

As always, if you have a question regarding your lawn and landscape give us call at 972.495.6990 or email me at [email protected]. I love to answer your questions and often turn them into Quick Tips to help teach our customers how to make sure they have the best lawn and landscape in the neighborhood!