Fire Ants ~~ the Good, the Bad, and the Awful
Ouch and Itchy----May 15
May I just whine a moment? I was out tending to my plants this morning and a fire ant found me. A bite on my big toe and a bite on my hand----waaaah. I have not one this battle but will continue to use safe-for-the-environment solutions to try to at least keep them under control
Time has slipped away and now I am a Senior Citizen. I find myself wondering how that can have happened this fast but surely it is true. I chuckle some days when I am skyping with my sister as we often talk about the weather or fire ants or mosquitos!!! How funny is that. Surely that is a true indicator of our more mature years....and of course the weather is hotter, or wetter, or drier in my location than hers or vice versa. The mosquitos are the size of birds and come in swarms so large they carried offf the neigbor's dog and they had a Great Dane.
The fire ants are a force to be reckoned with like no other!!! (Let me assure you we do find many other more exciting topics to discuss but invariably we do mention these topics sometime during our conversation.)
Fire Ants this year are the worst. I thought last year's were but this year has those ants of last year beat. I have included a photo of my leg where I was bitten last summer. II was bitten nine to 11 times and have six scars from the incident. three of them are easy to see...the others have faded quite a bit.
This is the first time a bite ever caused a scar. In the photo the dark spots are the ant bite scars. The while spots are scars from when I had chicken pox as a child of twelve years of age.
Do you have a no fail way to get rid of fire ants that you would like to share in the comment section?
Prevention and control
This summer it is a constant battle to try to keep them under control. I could have a professional come out but then I would not be able to eat for several years as treatment is very expensive. At least where I live it is. My daughter had her yard treated for two hundred dollars and it is much much smaller than mine. Thank goodness there was a provision in the contract that if the fire ants came back they would repeat the treatment. So far they have been back four times. I know that I could not afford for them to come to treat my yard so I keep plugging away trying to keep them under control
When my grandson is coming over, which is almost daily, I treat the areas where we will be before he comes so that he does not get ant bit while he is here. Still there are times that an errant ant will get him or me while he is here and I hate that...for him especially.
i have tried every method that is on line, in the the store, in magazines, on home and garden shows on television. Some of the methods work for a time, a very short time. One reason I think that keeping them at bay this summer is worse than in other years is that we have had rain almost every day for the whole entire summer. Many times the rain has lasted all day and has been what we often termed a "gully washer".. I just think that any treatment I have been able to apply has been washed away before it could work.
Prevention of bites seems to be the answer. The best I can do is treat the area when we are outside or before we are outside and be aware of where they are in the yard when we venture out.
The four darkest spots on my leg are scars from last year's unpleasant encounter...
The AWFUL....scarring from this summer's ant bites
Red Imported Fire Ant
The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) was accidentally introduced into the Mobile, Alabama, area about 1930.
Solenopsis invictas are now found in many Southern states including Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, and, of course, Alabama.
According to information provided by the University of Florida, it is likely that we will never get rid of them since their infestation is so widespread. I think it is important to know that. Pesticide manufacturers lead us to believe that by using their product fire ants will be a thing of the past, never to seen again once we use their product. More discussion on control and eradication of these ants provided at the end of this article.
The small red critters we see on top of the soil here are only a tiny fraction of what lies below the surface.
Do you know??
- In your yard, if you have red ants, one colony can contain any where from 100,000 to 500,000 worker ants and several hundred ants with wings. So, if you are running around your yard like a crazy person, like me, trying to get rid of them, know that you have a formidable opponent.
- The ants with wings will mate, the male dies, and the female becomes the queen of the colony. She will not lounge on the throne sipping nectar brought from a nearby plant but will be laying up to as many as 800 eggs each day.
- This explains why we have so many ants lying in wait just under the surface of the ground in our yards.
Where will you find their homes.
These unwanted, unwelcome critters are not too particular about where they make their homes really. Sunny, open spaces like fields with crops, a sunny meadow, our lawns, the nearby park, or a pasture are a few spots that they set up housekeeping.
They also like to build mounds in areas where rotting logs or other rotting plant material can be found, near trees and stumps, and even under buildings.
Almost the only place I have not found them in my yard is in a pail of water!! Well, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration but they really are comfortable in any of the locations mentioned and who knows when they will increase their preferences for habitat even further.
The GOOD fire ants can do
cotton & soy bean
cotton & soybeans
tarnished plant bugs
cotton & soybean
cotton & soybean
More AWFUL----My grandson's leg has been bitten again and again.
The AWFUL is self explanatory. The itching and stinging and the subsequent jewel of pus are the ugly of this unwelcome inhabitant of Southern lawns and other areas that entice them to move in and set up housekeeping.
Photographs of the AWFUL are provided.
The BAD ...about fire ants
The worst aspect of fire ants that I am aware of is the sting or bite whichever name you choose to give it.
They are harmful and dangerous to pets and humans alike.
Their bite leaves a red mark on your skin and before too long, within several hours, a pus jewel will form. Severe itching is also associated with the bite.
Now, controversy surrounds the pus jewel as they are termed. Some experts say never to pop it as it will make the itching worse and may even cause the size of the infected area to increase.
Such has not been my experience. I have been popping them for about 40 years now. It seems to me that once I rid the area of the pus that healing begins. I usually apply a soothing cream to the area and TRY to keep from scratching. Once the initial sting is over, the itching to me is the worst part.
CAUTION: If you or a family member is highly allergic to insect bites avoid being bitten by these insects. If bitten, seeking medical care is not only advised but may be crucial. I am deathly allergic to bee stings so am fearful if I get many ant bites but monitor how I feel and to date have not had to visit a doctor because of a bite.
Last summer I was bitten about nine to eleven times on my thigh (photo is provided). I had been weeding and somehow the ants got just under the leg of my shorts and had a field day. I was a mess, red, itchy, and covered with pus jewels. I did take several doses of Benadryl over the next few days (I also have it in the house) and did not need to seek medical attention.
My grandson was hospitalized for an ant bite about 8 years ago. He had to have his foot lanced and was given antibiotics to treat his encounter with them. He still is very allergic but has not had that type of reaction since that one time.
More information on control and rid of fire ants.
Classicalgeek has written about vegan fire ant control http://classicalgeek.hubpages.com/hub/Nontoxic-Natural-Vegan-Fire-Ant-Control
Jerrilee Wei has written about getting rid of fire ants
How to CONTROL these ants
As mentioned above it is unlikely you will get rid of these ants completely. Even professional insect agencies who guarantee the yard will be totally free of these insects find themselves coming back time after time to retreat the lawns.
What are we to do? My answer if to try to control them. I am in my yard daily usually for several hours tending to my plants or doing yard work. I also have family who visit often including two grandsons who seem to provide a buffet for the ants. For these reasons, I wish to have fire ants under control.
Usually I have a container of boric acid powder which I shake around the mound at least 8 to 10 inches in circumference. There are many near where my grandson plays so on the day that I know he is coming, I take care of treating the ground prior to his arrival.
In areas where he likes to dig to make root cake (the subject of another Hub), fortunately there are no red ants. He has been bitten enough times that if I say "Watch for the ants" he scurries away from an area.
The effects of the treatment is usually several hours after application but it does not take effect immediately. It usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes before activity stops at a mound.
In the source section of this article their is a link that will connect to information on boric acid. Reading that will answer questions you have about this substance.
Are there other ways to control them? Surely there are. If you are reading this, you know that available commercially are a wide variety of much more toxic chemicals than boric acid powder. There are also organic substances you can purchase.
One of the links in the source section provides you with access to organic control of these ants. It gives you a detailed description of a treatment method you can use to treat your yard.
Live and let live???
Having been under assault by these ants this year as often as has happened is what prompted me to write about them.
As I was writing, I began to wonder what good they are to the planet. I did not have to read too long before I found the information (provided in this article) about how they keep insects under control that attack crops.
For this reason, I know that they probably should not be totally eradicated from the planet. Selfishly I do want them to abscond from my yard and go to wherever the crops are that they should be protecting. Perhaps we can peacefully coexist.
The source for general information about fire ants is from the University of Florida website posted below.
Information on organic control of fire ants is listed below:
Information on boric acid can be found at the link below
Information on the good fire ants do is found at the site listed below
© 2013 Patricia Scott