Wild Things: Beware of Fire Ants
Fire ants, named for their fiery, burning sting, will attack anything from pets to humans, if disturbed. Now a growing concern in some states in America these ants are on the move!
Where to Find Them
Originally from South America these feisty pests are currently running rampant throughout American states in the south and southeast because they have no natural enemies. Fire ant mounds have been found everywhere from open pastures to vegetable gardens. They have also been known to invade air conditioners and traffic lights because of their attraction to electrical current.
Fire ants feed on branches, tree sap, ripe fruit and pests including cutworms and maggots. But if you get in their way - like crop pickers and agricultural workers sometimes do - then you're considered a meal too.
When a fire ant mound is disturbed the result is a mass swarming. The fire ants will defend their home by repeatedly stinging the intruder and latching on with their barbed jaws. The hot sting that follows is caused by the venom that burns the skin and leaves tiny blisters as battle scars. Swarms of fire ants have attacked small mammals, livestock, ground-dwelling birds, house pets and humans.
Did you know fire ants hate water? That's why after a heavy rain, mounds seem to appear overnight. The mounds are raised to keep the eggs and larvae out of the water zone.
In 1997 a contest was held to find the two largest active fire ant mounds in Texas, one in the city and one in the country. The winners were both given $1000. Not bad cash just for finding a bunch of ants!