Ants! Yes, that was a really cute movie that anyone with kids has probably seen at least a few dozen times. The movie would lead you to believe that ants are just friendly little animals that we should love and cherish. While it is true that most ants really don’t bother people and are a needed part of the eco system…Fire Ants are a totally different story.
I’m sure that Fire Ants have a proper place in the world but, if you have ever had them in your yard…what their purpose is in the world means very little. These evil little creatures will race out of their nest like an army. They grab on to you with their mandible so they have a very good grip and leverage, to shove their stinger right in. PAIN is followed by itching and burning. Oh, how I love fire ants…NOT!
While people say that these ants bite, they do grab (bite) you but what cause the pain and pustule is actually a sting. I know that doesn’t make much differance once it happens but, just thought I would throw in that fact. Anyway, most people have the small itching, burning, and pustule and that is all. Only about 1% of the population is believed to have any serious reaction to the sting. These people may have labored breathing, sweating, itchy rash, nausea, loss of consciousness…symptoms similar to an allergic reaction to a bee sting. People with a strong reaction to fire ants may also need to carry an Epi Pen just incase they encounter another sting, especially if they live in or will be traveling to areas where fire ants are prevalent.
If you live in the USA you may be wondering if Fire Ants have always been here? The answer is Yes and No. There are fire ants that are native to the USA and now we also have imported fire ants. No one intentionally brought them…it is believed that they were accidentally brought into the Mobile, Alabama port on ships. Who knows what the nest was hiding in but, gosh aren’t we happy they had a safe trip?! Their were 2 types of fire ants that were brought in…they are the Black and Red Fire Ants. They could have both stayed in South America and I would have been happier.
Anyway, these ants are much more common is southern states where the weather stays warmer. They do not have great luck surviving deep freeze that they have in the Northern States, unless they can get to a warmer area like in your house. But, those of us living in southern states will have to deal with the imported fire ants forever. There is really no way of ever getting rid of them entirely.
These wonderful creatures can mass produce. Even a single queen colonies can have as many as 100 mounds per acre. Each colony can have up to 100,000 ants. Most colonies become multi queen. That means if each queen can produce over 1000 eggs, you have new worker and queens popping up faster than you could ever kill them. The worker ants (which are just sterile females) job is to build tunnels, collect food, and protect the queen and the eggs (or pupa). The nicer the nest and more food the queens have, the more eggs she is likely to lay. The unfertilized eggs hatch out to be males which only purpose in life is to mate with females (typical). So, as you can imagine, these ants will be around for a very long time.
Many of the poisons that have been tried on Fire Ants have a down side…they are non discriminant. They may kill the fire ants but, they will also kill the good bugs and ants. Like other chemicals they also get into water ways and the toxin spreads to harm unintentional animals. As far as natural predators… There are anteaters in some areas that may chow down on a few fire ants just like in the USA there are armadillos that will eat a few but, never enough to get eradicate them. The University of Texas has been working to breed specific types of Phorid Flies to possibly help cut down on the fire ant numbers but, like everything…it may be a while before phorid flies are ever in a number to help.
Now people may think that if an area gets flooded that these, underground creatures might just drown. Nope, they just make a boat and take a trip. In fact these ants are so good at it that there are studies being conducted (at Georgia Institute of Technology) as to how they build their ant rafts. You can see some of how these ants build the raft and why it is important at Transformer Fire Ants Interlock to Become Water-Resistant Life Rafts.
Flooding seems to remove ants from one area but, they just can just float off. Even after Hurricane Katrina New Orleans noticed how many fire ants were gone from the areas that had been flooded and went to great lengths to keep them away permanently. I kind of doubt that they will keep the ants away but, it sure was worth a try. You can see the article, FAST Prevention: Fire Ants in New Orleans Post-Katrina, at LSU Ag Centers site.
The link above (to Georgia Institute of Technology) has info and a video of some of their research of how these Fire Ants build rafts…I found another video that will show them “floating” along. The video below also shows how much work these ants go through to keep their queen and pupa safe on the outing.
Did you have the same thought about the fish eating them? I though the fish should of ate all of them. It has also been said that people on boats should be extremely careful that they do not allow a raft of ants to come in contact with anything they can grab onto. The ants will take hold and climb in the boat.
Hope you enjoyed this mini set of facts about the Imported Fire Ants that plague some areas. I personally have a lot of experience in being stung by these ants. Could be that I am always the one that gets sent out in the yard to deal with them and I take my job seriously. Gee, the sacrifices I make so the kids and pets don’t have to worry about being in the yard. LOL!