Fire Ants Are Back With a Vengeance

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With the warmer weather and steady flow of moisture this spring, fire ant mounds are popping up everywhere! These feisty little creatures will certainly leave an impression if you encounter them in your garden, landscape beds, or lawn. They can be a real pest in pastures as well. They prefer sandy and loamy soils, but they  can also build nest in sandy/clay soils. As mentioned in an earlier article these insects have migrated further north and can now be found in northern Granville County, and they are becoming more plentiful in Person County. I received a report last summer from a landowner that said he had them on his property located on the North Carolina/Virginia border.

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, or if you have reports of fire ants migrating into areas they have not previously been please contact me.