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Fire Ant Control in Atlanta: ‘Not Your Average Ant’
What do fire ants look like? How can I tell them apart from other ants?
As silly as this question may seem — given their unique ‘red’ appearance — it’s one we get asked quite a bit as a North Georgia pest control professional; and for good reason. Being able to properly differentiate a fire ant from other ants is critical, as a fire ant infestation could be a more serious problem than most, requiring expertise and professional tools in order to eliminate it.
When it comes to identifying any pest it’s important to note just what that pest in particular is capable of. For instance, unlike black ants, both native and Red Imported Fire Ants have the ability to sting. To make matters worse, Imported Fire Ants are extremely aggressive and their sting can cause a range of nasty reactions ranging from nausea and irritation to even more severe reaction that require medical attention. Additionally, red fire ant are notorious for attacking animals that accidentally (or otherwise) intrude on their nests.
Beyond the danger they pose to both pets and people, fire ants can also cause damage to building, air-conditioning units,telephone wires, and plants. While their reasoning is not clear, fire ants seem to be extremely attracted to electrical currents, and can cause damage by nesting in vulnerable areas, like electrical junction boxes.
Game of Thrones
There are two kinds of Fire Ants; the single-queen and what is known as a multiple-queen type.
Workers within single-queen colonies are territorial, meaning they forage solely within their territory; while, on the other hand, workers from multiple-queen colonies freely move from one mound to the next, which (in turn) has resulted in a drastic increase in the number of mounds per acre.
Areas that have been infested with single-queen colonies contain 40-150 mounds per acre (you’ll rarely see more than 7 million ants per acre). However, in areas with multiple-queen colonies, there may be 200 mounds or more and 40 million (yes…million!) Red Imported Fire Ants per acre.
The Red Imported Fire Ant will construct mounds in almost any type of soil, while they prefer open, sunny areas such as parks, meadows, lawns, cultivated fields, and pastures. Colonies can also be located under or inside commercial buildings.
Some of the usual areas you’ll see a mound is in rotting logs and around trees and tree stumps, sometimes reaching record sizes; in fact, mounds containing colonies of fire ants could reach 18 inches in height, depending on the type of soil.
Similar to most ant mounds, a Fire Ant mound has no opening in the center, as the pests themselves enter and exit the mound via elaborate (and minuscule) underground tunnels. You should always be weary around fire ant mounds, and be careful not to disturb them, as this will send workers swarming out from the ground where they will sting the intruder very aggressively.
Check out the tweets below from Twitter users who were unlucky enough to experience the painful sting of a fire ant:
The Red Imported Fire Ant can have massive colonies, consisting of between 300-500,000 workers; all foraging at distances of 100 yards. Fire ant activity will typically range from the spring to fall months. During the spring and summer months, specifically, the functioning mounds will send out winged swarmer ants whose sole purpose is to begin new colonies elsewhere.
Where do Fire Ants Nest
During the cooler winter months, the Red Imported Fire Ant will sometimes decide to build a nest inside buildings and homes, next to hot water heaters or under bathtubs (when on a slab). The Southern Fire Ant, in particular, will typically be found nesting in loose soil, however, at times they can be found in masonry or woodwork as well. Other areas you might find a fire ant nest include under houses, inside cracks within concrete, or under stones and boards.
Fire ant colonies frequently migrate from one site to the next, while the queen only requires a few workers in order to begin a new colony. Even more impressive, fire ants can develop a new mound — located several hundred feet from their previous mound — in a matter of hours.
Fire Ants in a Flood:Flooding causes colonies to leave their mounds and float until they can reach land to establish a new mound.
In order to properly identify Red Imported Fire Ants you should take note of their unique characteristics, which includes:
Worker Fire Ants are dark, small, highly variable in size, aggressive, and sting relentlessly.
Workers of all sizes have the same body proportions: head width never exceeds the abdomen width, even in the largest workers.
When it comes to discovering an infestation, Red Imported Fire Ant mounds are easily seen and numerous. If you should ever come across loose soil above ground, similar to gopher diggings be sure to call your local pest control company immediately.
Fire Ant Reproduction & Diet
To gain a better understanding of how these pests function — which, will provide you with more knowledge on how to control them — it’s important to note their reproduction and diet.
For starters, the time it takes a fire ant to go from a simple egg to a fully developed adult, is 30 days, while workers can live up to 180 days, and their queens will typically live between 2 – 6 years.
As far as their diet is concerned, Fire Ants will not only forage for food (such as dead animals, small insects, and sweet materials, like plant secretions) but will also kill small animals and other insects in order to feed.
While it’s never encouraged to attempt to control these pests (or any for that matter) on your own — due, in part, to the fact that, if you aren’t a professional, you can be at risk for painful (sometimes life threatening) stings and bites — there are a few methods for fire ant control that could work given the proper knowledge and time dedicated to getting the job done.
Treat Individual Mounds
You should always treat fire ant mounds individually. In order to do this properly, you can use the ‘drench method’ which entails pouring a liquid insecticide into each mound you find on or in your property.
It’s important to ensure that the whole mound has been treated; this means you should be pouring enough volume of the liquid insecticide into the mound in order to eliminate the queens.
Applying Fire Ant Baits
While they’re not a solution for permanent fire ant control, ant baits can be a way to deal with smaller infestations. These can be found at a pest control shop or made through natural means, and usually contain a substance that is enticing to fire ants — so they’ll want to eat it — and poisonous at the same time.
Ant bait should always be applied (on top of fire ant mounds) on a fairly sunny day, when there is a significant amount of visible activity around the fire ant mound itself. This way, the Ants can begin to forage for the bait quickly, for an efficient elimination.
You should avoid putting out ant bait on an extremely hot or rainy day, as there will surely not be enough fire ant activity in order to successfully start to source the bait.
Liquid insecticide should only be used as a last resort, as its a dangerous method if you aren’t careful of ingredients and could lead to more harm — such as poisoning live stock, pets or killing crops.
If you do decide to use an insecticide, you should use it wisely and read all of the instructions that come with the packaging.
When it comes to using insecticide, killing the queen is the ultimate goal. This starts with drenching the entire mound, however, the most effective technique is to use a rod in order to form vertical tunnels inside the mound, which will easily facilitate the liquid mixture reaching the queens.
For more DIY fire ant control techniques, we suggest heading over to Rodale’sOrganicLife.com.