Fire ants may be the most recognized Southern insect since the boll weevil. It seems that every child, by the time they are three, has had a negative experience with this pest. Most children and some adults cannot resist kicking or disturbing a large mound as they walk past it. We’re fascinated by the ants bailing up out of the nest looking for the culprit. The bites are painful and we’re surprised by hidden mounds when gardening, golfing, or mowing the yard.
First, some fire ant basics. They were imported into the U.S. in the early 40’s and have moved up the east coast across Texas and have reached as far north as Nashville, Tennessee.
Fire ants have single or multiple queens and thousands of individuals in the mound, which is not always present. In dry weather the colony is in the soil and invisible, but once it rains, mounds appear overnight. The mounds keep eggs and larvae out of dampness in the soil. This means fire ants are always around even if you do not see the mound.
Next, fire ants forage up to 150 yards from the nest and are beneficial in reducing cotton and pecan crop pests. In addition, they drive out native ant species. However, they are now implicated in reducing quail populations by killing small insects that young quail feed upon.
The bites are painful and there are sting-kill swab products sold everywhere to stop the pain. Some people are allergic and can become ill from bites.
There are cultural things you can do to control fire ants:
- Mow higher – they don’t like tall grass.
- Water less – they like well-watered lawns.
- Plant trees – they do not like shade.
Cook’s has fire ant programs available for both commercial and residential situations. Regular fire ant baiting works best and offers long-term control. Nature abhors a vacuum; so once you eliminate fire ants from your lawn, other fire ants will try to re-infest. Call us today to have a Cook’s Professional assess your fire ant infestation and recommend a solution.