Pest Profile: Fire Ants
Warm and sunny days are nothing when you can’t enjoy them outside. Sadly, fire ant colonies can turn going outside into a terrifying proposition: one poorly aimed step, and you’re covered in aggressive, stinging ants! And it seems like they’re everywhere when you want to play in the yard; instead of tag, you’re playing minesweeper with fire ant beds.
Fire Ants 101
Fire ants can be distinguished from other ants primarily by their coloring: whereas other ants tend to be black, fire ants are reddish-brown. They live in vast colonies which are divided into three roles: queens (breeding females), drones (males who breed with the queen), and workers (sterile females). Most of the fire ants we see on the surface are worker ants, who basically do everything needed to keep the colony running. Fire ants are fiercely territorial and use poisonous stingers to defend their territory from intruders.
Why They’re Pests
Fire ants aren’t terribly particular about where they choose to set up shop. Colonies can be started just about anywhere, from cracks in concrete, to under the rose bushes, to next to your home’s foundation, and even into the middle of your yard. Human presence doesn’t affect fire ants in the least, so there isn’t much, shy of professional level deterrence, that will prevent them from thinking of your property as a cozy nesting site.
Why They’re Dangerous
Like many of us, fire ants will do anything to protect their homes. To help in their aggressive defense of their homes, they are armed with stingers on their abdomens. These stingers are laced with solenopsin, a toxic venom which has the power to kill insects and small animals. When humans are stung by fire ants, it can cause reactions ranging from a terrible burning sensation at the sting to severe reactions in sensitive or allergic individuals.
The problem ultimately arises when fire ants are provoked. Any disturbance to their nest causes the colony to go on red alert and try to destroy whatever they think is attacking their home. A signal goes out, and the ants swarm, fiercely stinging any foreign creature or object in hopes of making it leave the colony alone. This immediate and violent group reaction can be especially dangerous if pets, small children, or sensitive individuals are on the receiving end of the ant attack.
Fire Ant Prevention
There are many different resources for controlling and preventing fire ants from invading your yard. Your local hardware stores and mass retailers can supply you with do-it-yourself poisons—but these can sometimes do more harm than good by removing other insects that were helping to keep fire ant numbers down. If you’re serious about getting rid of fire ant populations , contact a professional exterminator. Professional extermination companies can ensure that your existing fire ant population dies out and that future colonies do not infest your yard or home.