I don’t know about you, but that last cold spell in February just about did me in…I’m so tired of moving plants, covering plants, wrapping pipes, hanging up coats, searching for gloves, turning the heater up and down, wearing flip flops one day and everything I can find the next….ugh…tired of it!!! I know my team of technicians are ready for the warmer weather…yes, I said warmer…not hot.

In this issue, I am going to discuss Fire Ants. So as we prepare for the wet and warmer seasons, let’s spend a little more time on these insects. The Red Imported Fire Ant accidentally arrived from South America to Mobile, Alabama in the 1930’s and has spread to infest more than 260 million acres of land mostly in the southeastern states. Reaching Texas in the 1950’s, the fire ant spread quickly across the state, through natural mating flights, mass movement of colonies, “floating” down flooded streams and rivers, and even by cars, trucks, trains, and through delivery shipments of plants and other materials. This species has become very abundant, displacing many native ant species not to mention the devastation on crops, plants, animals and people.

Red Imported Fire Ants are medium-sized ant that builds mounds of soft soil. They are rarely larger than 18″ in diameter. When the mound is disturbed, fire ants emerge aggressively searching for the “culprit” and sting. Their sting usually leaves a white pustule on the skin. Other small to medium-sized ants that build small mounds will actually run away from disturbances, but not fire ants. Fire ants are sensitive to vibration or movement and tend to sting when the object they are on moves. When one ant stings, this triggers the others to sting in response.

The sting, while it is uncomfortable, is only lethal to a very small part of the population that experience allergic reactions. There isn’t much you can do, except watch the affected areas for excessive swelling, itching or redness, or other symptoms like shortness of breath, thickening of the tongue, sweating, etc. that could indicate a systemic allergic reaction. Treat fire ant stings just as you would treat the stings of other insects and keep them clean and intact to avoid secondary infections.

So how do you control or keep fire ants off your property? First of all the “club soda, instant grits or MaltOMeal” treatments have been proved ineffective by certified entomologist. The only “non-chemical” approach to be considered effective is pouring approximately 3 gallons of very hot water onto the mounds. This will eliminate ants about 60% of the time or just move them over a couple of feet.

The other method for treatment has been referred to as the Two Step method. This method is proven to reduce the fire ant population in heavily infested lawns. Briefly, it is: 1) once or twice per year broadcast application of a bait product to the entire property, and waiting several days to a week, before 2) treating nuisance mounds using an individual mound treatment such as a dust, granule, bait or liquid insecticide. The key is utilizing the appropriately labeled product, the appropriate amount and following the instructions. Or, call a pest control professional and ask them to apply Top Choice. Guaranteed 12 month control and no longer your concern for the weekends. That’s what we are licensed and trained to perform.

Next month I will be discussing termites and advising you on what to look for; how to identify; how to protect your property …..But, until then should you have a particular insect that you would like for me to discuss, please email me at chasepestcontrol@consolidated.net or you can visit our web site at www.chasepestcontrol.com for a link to the Texas A&M Entomology Department. As always, if you would like to have professional pest control services for your home or office we stand ready to serve…”Protecting People, Pets and Property since 1997”.