Information on Fire Ants

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My first introduction to fire ants was in Alabama a few years ago when I was attending the annual National Association of County Agriculture Agents Conference. We were on a field tour at a nursery and I ended up standing on a non-descript fire ant mound. I quickly learned how painful their stings can be!

Fire ants are native to southern Brazil. They currently can be found in eleven southern states and in 74 of 100 counties in North Carolina. There is a quarantine by the US Department of Agriculture & the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services that regulates the movement of items that might carry fire ant infestations to other uninfested parts of the state and country. Fire ants are more of a nuisance from an agriculture perspective. They annoy field workers, mounds can damage harvesting equipment and livestock injury & crop damage are minor. They have a much greater impact on the ornamental plant, sod, and landscaping industries because of problems associated with shipping potentially infested plant material or soil into uninfested areas. Often fire ant mounds found in a previously uninfested area can be traced to landscaping performed at residential or commercial developments.

Fire ant mounds vary in size, but are usually in direct proportion to the size of the colony. So, a mound that is 2’ in diameter & 18” tall may contain over 100,000 ants. Mounds in clay soil will usually be symmetrical and dome-shaped, where those constructed in sandy soils will be irregular in shape.

Fire ants are difficult to control and require you to use multiple means to manage them. Managing fire ants requires you to come at them in several ways:  start by, inspecting any new landscape material before you purchase & plant in your landscape; eliminate food sources; and chemical insecticides.

Come learn more about fire ants and how to manage them at the next Union County Extension Master Gardener Monthly Educational meeting, June 21, at 7 p.m. at the Union County Ag Center, 3230 Presson Rd, Monroe.