An Abundance of Fire Ants!
The wet weather we have had this summer and fall has really allowed imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta, to become plentiful. It seems everywhere you look you see a large mound of soil, and if you barely come in contact with it, the fire ants swarm out. In previous years, fire ants have not been a problem in the northern areas of Person and Granville counties, but this year I have had reports of them near the Virginia/North Carolina border and around the Roxboro area. Those of us who are familiar with them, both by site and by sting, know they can be quite troublesome and not easily controlled. In fact, managing them is the best you can hope for when you have fire ants move into your yard. Once you think you have them under control, five to ten more hills show up.
Fire ants are originally from southern Brazil and are found mainly in the southern part of the United States. Mounds can have over 100,000 workers and hundreds of winged adults but only one queen. Winged adults will mate and after mating the females, now queens, can produce their own nest. A queen can fly up to 10 miles from their original mound; however, most queens do not travel that distance. Most queens do not survive once they have mated because other foraging ants, especially other fire ants, will kill them.
Several methods can be used to control fire ants including baits, granular insecticides, drenches, and powders. Rotating different types of insecticides is always the best practice. This will prevent fire ants from becoming resistant to a particular control method. The following is a list of some of the active ingredients to look for in products to help control fire ants: Acephate, Bifenthrin, Carbaryl, Fipronil, Methoprene, Spinosad. This is not a complete list of active ingredients that are available for fire ant control. Auburn University has an excellent publication about controlling fire ants and a more inclusive list of pesticides for homeowners. For more information, see the NC State University publication, Red Imported Fire Ant in North Carolina.
If you have any questions regarding this information please contact me.