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Top 10 Things to Know about Fire Ants

Q: How do I identify fire ants?

A: In areas where fire ants are commonly found, most people identify this pest by the appearance of the mound. The painful sting of the fire ant’s bite is another good indicator, but not recommended as a method of identification. Fire ants build mounds in almost any type of soil, but they prefer open sunny areas such as pastures, parks, lawns, and fields. Their mounds can grow 18 to 24 inches in height if the soil conditions are right. Often mounds are located in rotting logs and around stumps and trees. Colonies can also occur in or under buildings. The ants themselves are reddish brown in color and roughly 1/8 to 1/4 inch in length.

Imported Red Fire Ant Workers

Q: Are all fire ants the same?

A: Actually there are several species of fire ants found throughout the United States some of them indigenous. The Red Imported Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta) is considered the worst of all varieties. It has become a major pest in many parts of the country. In fact, this ant’s ability to rapidly reproduce, its aggressive swarming behavior, and painful stings, have made the Red Imported Fire Ant one of the most detested insects around. The ant was accidently introduced into the United States during the 1930’s through the port of Mobile, Alabama. Red Imported Fire Ants have currently spread into at least 15 states…. that we know.

Q: Is it easier to prevent fire ants or eliminate them after colonization?

A: It is typically easier to prevent fire ant colonization than it is to eliminate existing colonies after they have infested an area.

Q: How can I prevent fire ants?

A: Two methods of prevention work well. The first, and my favorite for states with high concentrations of fire ants, is to broadcast fire ant bait. Two of the most effective baits are Advion Fire Ant Bait or MaxForce Fire Ant Bait. They should be broadcast in early spring before the ants begin to form new colonies. You should also broadcast bait again in the fall. The bait kills the queen once the worker ants gather it and bring it to her as food. Any mounds that survive should be treated individually by sprinkling the same bait around the base of each mound as they are noticed.

advion fire ant bait maxforce fire ant bait

Another method useful for states with both high and low concentrations of fire ants is broadcasting a granular insecticide such as Bifen LP or Cyonara LP. Similar to ant baits, this is broadcast both in the spring and fall. Unlike baits, granular insecticides must be watered-in to be effective. Each time the granules get wet, they release a small portion of insecticide. This makes granular insecticide useful as a long term residual control method. As with other treatments, surviving mounds should be individually treated with baits.

bifen lp cyonara lp

Q: What if I already have active mounds in the yard?

A: You will usually have better results by baiting each mound individually. Large well established mounds may need several treatments to totally eradicate. Then a broadcast application of bait should be spread around the yard in the fall to kill any remaining ants.

Q: I tried a fire ant bait once and it didn’t seem to work. Did I do something wrong?

A: Maybe. Fire ants think the bait is food, making the time of bait application crucial to the success of the treatment. If the ants are not out gathering food, then they won’t pick up the bait. Bait is most effective within the first few days of application. It is also important to apply the right amount. With most baits, 1 to 1.5 lbs. per acre works well. When treating individual mounds do not place the bait on the mound. Uniformly spread the bait 3 to 4 feet around the mound for best results.

Q: Are Granular Insecticide and Ant baits safe for my pets and kids?

A: As long as you read and follow all label directions, then your pets and children will not be affected by the treatments.

Q: Are fire ant stings lethal?

A: While their bites are painful to everyone, only a small percentage of people are allergic. Much like a bee sting, a fire ant sting can be serious, even lethal.

Q: What should I do if I get bitten by a fire ant?

A: Treat the stings as you would other insect stings or bites using an over-the-counter product. Keep the wound clean and intact to prevent infections.

Q: What if I have an allergic reaction to the sting?

A: Excessive swelling, itching or redness at the site of the sting, or other symptoms like shortness of breath, thickening of the tongue, or profuse sweating are all symptoms of a serious allergic reaction. Seek professional medical attention immediately!

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