If you see a mound of dirt forming in the middle of your lawn, we highly recommend hiring professional fire ant control. Fire ants might be the most annoying insect to discover on your lawn. Nobody likes them, it’s true, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fascinating in their own right. So while you’re waiting for your yard to be sprayed, why not learn a little more about this common lawn pest?
Fire ants have become so pervasive, especially in southern lawns, that no one could fault you for thinking they must have been here forever. That is actually not the case! They were accidentally brought in from South America in 1918 and arrived near Mobile, Alabama.
While most colonies range in the tens of thousands, if left untreated, colonies have been known to amass more than 200,000 ants in a single colony!
You might have thought that the giant dirt mound is where they live, but actually, fire ants utilize underground tunnels as well. These allow them to transport food, build nurseries for the young, and generally move about undetected and undisturbed. These tunnels can extend as long as 25 feet. That’s why many DIY methods of controlling fire ants – like pouring boiling water in the opening of the mound – don’t really work. It might only kill 60% of the ants, giving them plenty of members with which to repopulate. And it’s because of these tunnels. You would only be killing the worker ants nearest the top.
Fire ants take their name from two different sources. One: the reddish coloring that makes them stand out from other ants, which are black or dark brown. Two: the infamous sting that leaves painful red bumps. Bonus fun fact: fire ants can actually sting and bite, but only the sting leaves you in severe pain.
They’ve been known to invade beehives, kill all the bees, and ransack the place for their own benefit. They also will attack anything they remotely perceive as a threat to their colony. You can forget doing your regular lawn maintenance because if you come anywhere close to their nest, they will swarm you. That’s why it’s so important to call pest control instead of dealing with these critters yourself. While most people have mild to moderate irritation, some people are very unlucky and may experience a severe reaction that can be fatal. Do you really want to roll those dice?
The diet of the fire ant is just one of the many reasons these insects are great survivors. Unlike other ant species, which subsist only on plant life, fire ants will dine on plants, seeds, and even small animals.
Yes, really! When their territory is flooded, fire ants can cling together like circus performers and form a giant floating mass. They can also form a chain gang-like structure over short distances to transport larvae out of a flooded nest to safety.
Believe it or not, the queen of a fire ant colony can live as long as seven years! Even more astonishing: she can lay up to 1,600 eggs per day! These prolific breeders never leave the nest once they develop into the breeding queen. It can take about a month for a fire ant mound to really develop in your lawn. 30 x 1,600 = 48,000 fire ants in your yard! That’s why it is so crucial not to hesitate if you find fire ants on your lawn. There may not be a visible mound yet, but there will be one soon. And if you do see a mound in your lawn, this means you’ve already got a full-blown infestation. Some people think that the mound is the canary in the mine, but actually, by the time the mound is established, it’s really established. In fact, seeing a few lone fire ants without a visible mound should be the bigger warning sign. In the same way, a few drops of water on the ceiling heralds a much bigger problem the longer you wait.
Most animals and insects have learned to steer clear of the fire ant, but one species actually hunts them. This daring insect is the phorid fly. As tough as fire ants are, they’re no match for these flies. The female phorid fly will seek out fire ants to lay her eggs in the ant’s thorax. When the eggs move into their larval stage, the larvae will actually push into the ant’s head and kill it. Pretty gruesome, but you have to be tough if you’re dealing with fire ants.
There are male fire ants, of course, and their job is to breed with the queen, so she keeps producing offspring. However, most of the workers are infertile females who maintain the colony and take care of the young.
As you’ve no doubt learned from reading this blog, taking care of fire ants on your own is ill-advised. The professionals at TruGreen Midsouth are licensed, trained, and have all the equipment necessary to swiftly and efficiently eradicate these tiny menaces from your yard. Our pest control program takes care of not only fire ants but also mites, spiders, and other undesirable insects. In addition, we offer a mosquito control service because if there’s one bite that’s worse than fire ants – it’s the bites of mosquitoes. Don’t wait until your yard is overrun. Contact our team today!