Fire Ants - Meet the Culprits
Despite considerable efforts, Fire Ants continue to invade new territory every year. Red Imported Fire Ants have infested more than 300 million acres of land in the United States. In new territory, Fire Ants become the dominant pest by destroying crops, killing livestock and wildlife. For some unknown reason, fire ants are attracted to electrical fields or currents, and can cause considerable amount of damage to electrical equipment.
They live up to their name because their venom, injected by a stinger, causes intense irritation and may cause severe reactions in especially sensitive people. Four species are commonly found as pests in the United States: fire ant, red imported fire ant, black imported fire ant, and the southern fire ant.
- They feed on a variety of foods including meat, grease, butter, nuts, seeds or vegetables
- Workers are 1/15 to1/4 inches long and are highly variable in color
- They typically nest in the soil, and make characteristic earthen mounds
Typical yards contain several mounds, and larger yard may contain several dozen. Large colonies can have up to 300-500,000 workers. Fire ants are both predators and scavengers, attacking and killing other insects and small animals, or feeding on dead animals. Occasionally, they will nest inside homes, especially in the winter under bathtubs, next to hot water heaters or other sources of warmth.
There are several methods of control available for fire ants. Baits generally offer the longest control, but also take the longest to work. You can also use liquid insecticides as broadcast treatments or mound drenches. Using baits and following up with the liquids can offer you good control.
In some areas, neighborhood associations work together to designate weekends for everyone to treat their yards for fire ants, thus allowing for better control of larger areas. The Oxbow Neighborhood Association located in northwest San Antonio was the first homeowner association in Texas to be assisted by the Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Plan. Based on a community-wide survey developed by the Extension Service, homeowners replied that they spent anywhere from $1-$100.00 per year on fire ant treatment chemicals and such. From this survey, fire ant infestations were determined to average 4-6 mounds per yard. Organizers of the program divided the neighborhood into sections using streets as units. Neighborhood leaders chose a 2-step baiting method, applications were calculated based upon lot size in acres. Overall, the Fire Ant Days held in the Oxbow neighborhood have demonstrated successes in large-scale fire ant control increasing the awareness level of its residents regarding fire ants and their management.
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