Facts about fire ants and tips to fight them

Facts about fire ants and tips to fight them
(Source: Pixabay)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Ever been bitten by a fire ant? If you haven't, congratulations. If you have, you know they hurt. In addition to their bites, these pests build large mounds just about everywhere in Central Alabama, from your backyard, to pastures, and everywhere in between.

The ants, an invasive species, can injure or kill livestock, wildlife, pets, and humans, the Alabama Cooperative Extension says. They can also infest buildings and damage electrical equipment as they chew on wire insulation. Fighting fire ants costs Americans $6 billion annually.

FIRE ANT FACTS

According to the National Park Service:

  • An ant's antennae enable it to find and taste food, detect air currents, feel surface textures, hear, and smell
  • Fire ant mounds can extend into the ground 20' deep or more, with lateral tunnels extending out over 8' in all directions
  • The workers of the fire ant species generally live 4-6 weeks; queens can live up to 7 years or more
  • Fire ant mounds can be 2' high
  • A single fire ant colony may have dozens of queens, each capable of laying up to 1,500 eggs per day
  • Attack anything that disturbs their mound (nest.) by firmly grasping skin with their jaws, then sting and inject venom. They pivot at the head and inflict more stings in a circular pattern
  • Areas infested with single queen colonies contain 40-150 mounds per acre (rarely more than 7 million ants per acre.) In areas with multiple queen colonies, there may be 200 or more mounds and up to 40 million red fire ants per acre
  • The worker ants are wingless, sterile females
  • They feed the queen only food they've eaten first
  • The males die soon after mating
  • Both the black (1900s) and red (1930s) fire ants were accidentally imported to the U.S. through a port in Mobile, Alabama. They were in the soil used as ballast or dunnage in ships carrying agricultural goods 
  • Since that time, they have spread to 12 southern states

As part of its Agriculture and Stewardship Club 2018 Seminar Series, the Town of Pike Road is hosting Dr. Chip East to speak about everything related to the ants. East is the regional field director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

The event happens Thursday, May 17, at 9 a.m. at Pike Road Town Hall. During the meeting, East will discuss how to manage the pests and take care of your outdoor spaces.

"Fire ant management can be confusing when reading all the labels of the many different products," East said. "This meeting will explain the biology of fire ants and what management practices work best for different areas such as vegetable gardens, orchards, home lawns, pastures, and hayfields."

There is no cost to attend, but registration is required by calling 334-270-4133.

Who can help me with my fire ant problem? CLICK HERE.

How can I control my fire ant problem? CLICK HERE.

"We are excited to partner with the Montgomery County branch of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System to host this seminar," said Pike Road Mayor Gordon Stone. "ACES has a long history of providing valuable educational tools for farmers and landowners. The Ag & Stewardship Seminar Series is a great opportunity to engage in the stewardship of our natural resources and celebrate the Pike Road community's agricultural heritage."

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