Red imported fire ants rule the South. These invasive aliens first arrived in Alabama in the 1930s, but their range has really expanded since the 1990s. Today, they’re found in Florida, Georgia and every state between Texas and North Carolina. If you haven’t seen fire ants yet, you have probably heard about the searing pain of their stings. Here are a few things that you should know if you live in an area with fire ant infestations.
Recognizing Fire Ant Activity
Have you ever seen large mounds of granular soil springing up in yards, along sidewalks or near fences? The presence of these fluffy mounds is a telltale sign of fire ants. Their anthills don’t have a central opening. They can grow up to 18 inches wide and tall depending on the size of the colony. If you see one of these anthills, don’t disturb it. Hundreds or even thousands of angry ants will emerge. The workers inflict many painful bites and stings. They will inject venom under your skin. Within a day, each sting will become a small pustule. An allergy to fire ant venom can cause anaphylaxis, which could be life threatening if you don’t have epinephrine or antihistamines nearby. Pets and children are often victims of fire ant stings because they don’t recognize the danger.
Identifying Fire Ants
You can identify fire ants in several ways apart from their distinctive anthills and painful stings. Members of the colony usually measure between one-eighth and one-quarter of an inch long. Some of the workers are two to three times larger. This is unusual because most ant species are one consistent size. Although they’re called red imported fire ants, some members of the colony are usually dark brown or black. You can also identify fire ants by their behavior. For example, when agitated, the workers charge up vertical surfaces. Fire ants use underground tunnels to enter and exit their mounds, so ant activity is visible around the anthill. You may also notice dirt mounds popping up more frequently after storms.
Controlling Fire Ants
In Florida and Georgia, fire ants are found in all environments from rural farms to suburban and urban neighborhoods. According to federal estimates, fire ants cost the nation more than $5 billion. This includes medical expenses, pest control and property damage. For assistance controlling fire ants or any other pest, contact Bug Out. We serve customers in southeastern Georgia and Florida, including Jacksonville, Ocala and St. Augustine.