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F.A.Q.Have questions about fire ants? We have the answers.


Answers

Where do fire ants come from?

Red Imported Fire Ants (Solenopsis invicta and S. richteri) are native to South America. They were accidentally introduced into the U.S. around the 1930's through the port of Mobile, Alabama; probably in soils used for ships’ ballasts and have been spreading since.

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How many larvae (eggs) can a queen fire ant lay?

Queen fire ants can lays between 200 and 2000 larvae (eggs) per day depending on the environmental conditions and her support system. Adult fire ants emerge in 9 to 15 days.

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Why are fire ants attracted to electrical fields?

Fire ants have an affinity for electrical fields and equipment. They build up in high numbers around contact points and cause short circuits and corrosion that can interfere with all types of switching mechanisms. Science has not been able to confirm the exact reason for their behavior.

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Why do fire ants appear to sting at the same time?

Fire ants are sensitive to vibration or movement and tend to sting when the object they are on moves. Usually, whatever causes one ant to bite and stings triggers the other ants to sting to the same response.

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Are fire ant stings lethal?

Only a very small portion of the population, between 1% and 6%, are hypersensitive to ant venom and will experience lethal allergic reactions. The very young, the very old and those with suppressed immune systems are most likely to react severely to one or more stings. However, even healthy individuals may experience severe reactions, such as anaphylactic shock, if they suffer from a multiple stinging incident. 

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What should I do if I get stung by fire ants?

There isn't much you can do, except watch the affected area for excessive swelling, itching or redness, or other symptoms like shortness of breath, thickening of the tongue, sweating, etc. that could indicate a severe systemic allergic reaction. If this occurs, seek medical attention. Otherwise, treat stings as you would stings of other insects and keep them clean and intact to avoid secondary infections.

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What if I have an allergic reaction to a fire ant sting?

Seek medical help immediately! If you are uncertain how your body will react, be sure to let someone know what has happened.

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Fire ants are killing the quail, deer, lizards, songbirds, horn toads, etc. Why isn't anything being done?

Things are being done, but it's not an easy problem to solve. First, using today's chemical methods of Red Imported Fire Ant control provides only temporary suppression and, on a per area basis, costs money for each treatment. While some wildlife species are undoubtedly declining due to fire ants, there are other factors influencing the decline, such as land use practices and weather extremes.

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Why do fire ants get into laundry?

Laundry piles are convenient places that present lots of tunnels for the ants. They may be attracted to moisture or food residue or oils on soiled clothing. 

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Can fire ants be eradicated completely?

Red Imported Fire Ants cannot be eradicated completely with methods available today in large areas. With proper control methods, they can be reduced or eliminated temporarily from small areas. Their biology and spread make it economically, technically and ecologically impossible to eradicate them from larger areas. To date, these efforts have not been documented to be a success.

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How do I eliminate fire ants from my yard?

There is no single, easy answer for every situation. Most people with more than a handful of mounds (Five ant mounds per ¼ acre) will be satisfied with just bait. Other methods may be desirable for larger properties, where greater control is required or where more ants occur and native ant preservation is desired. Remember, no method is 100% effective all the time, though some come close and no method is permanent. The ants will re-invade, with new colonies probably appearing after the next rain and certainly within a year.

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It's been dry and I don't see any fire ants. Are they still around? Why should I treat them now?

The ants are still there, but the colonies are just not making mounds because of the hard, dry soil caused by heat and drought. They are nesting deeper in the ground during the day and the worker ants come out to forage during cooler parts of the day or at night.

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When and how often should I reapply the bait?

The fall application is important because it will help suppress ants by the following spring. Reapply when fire ant mounds begin to appear again. Generally, if you make a spring application, suppression should last until that fall, when the next application should be made. Re-infestation depends on size of area treated and frequencies of mating flights. Larger areas experience less colony immigration from untreated adjacent properties. During favorable colony development conditions and wet years, mating flights may be more frequent and intense, resulting in more newly formed colonies that appear one to two months following a successful mating flight.  

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Is there anything I can use that isn't a pesticide?

A pesticide is anything that kills pests. However, some options do not rely on chemicals formulated to kill insects. Using very hot water is somewhat effective for individual mounds. Approximately 3 gallons of very hot water poured onto mounds will eliminate ants about 60% of the time. However, you will risk damaging plants, grass and even burning yourself. Some home remedies such as instant grits thought be eaten by ants and swell in their stomachs and cause death when placed on the mound, have demonstrated to be ineffective, in this case because worker ants cannot ingest particles larger than 2 microns.

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Are there any biological controls for fire ants? I heard about a fly that is supposed to kill fire ants, what's the story on that?

The University of Texas and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been conducting research on fire ant parasitic phorid fly species as one of several potential biological control agents for helping to control fire ants. However, documentation about their impact on fire ant population levels has not been published to date. Even in South America where the imported fire ants and parasitic fly species come from, the flies only affect about 3% of the worker ants in a colony. Scientific studies continue to be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of phorid fly. To date, these efforts have not been documented to be a success.

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Where can I get more information on fire ants?

Most of the information on fire ants, like the ones we have here, is provided by the Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Project. You can also CONTACT US for your immediate needs regarding fire ant infestations.

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