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'Down with the ants:' Weather to blame for fire ant mounds

Fire ant mound. (Credit: Sydney Glenn/WPDE)

Fire ants are always here, but they normally live underground, where most people would prefer them.

Unfortunately this cool, damp weather is bringing the ants crawling up.

“This time of year when we are kind of in that transition where it’s cool and moist, they are building their mounds as big and high as they can get," Ben Powell said.

The Clemsen Extension Area Natural Resource agent said fire ants aren't easy to control either.

“You ever treat one mound and that one mound will die, but then all the sudden another mound pops up over here well. That’s because her sister queen has now become the dominant one. So these super colonies make it very difficult to control fire ants," he said.

The extra pests is causing many residents, like Mary and Ken Burry, to be frustrated.

“We hate them. They are very nasty. They are nasty buggers, they really are," Mary said.

There are ways to get rid of fire ants, Powell said, like insecticidal bait.

“What we want to do is make sure that the ants are actively forging. I like to take some old potato chips, throw them in the yard see if the ants start to attack them. When the ants get on them, I know it’s time to put the bait out," he said.

There are about 100 to 500 thousand fire ants in each mound.

“We are just obsessed with counting the mounds all on 17 and 544. They are everywhere," Mary said.

Fire ants are not native to our area. Powell said they have only been here for around 60 or 70 years. Ants are not bad. In fact, they can help fight off other pests, but fire ants aren't ideal for our area.

"These are an exotic species and they are displacing most of our native ants, which do the same things but do it in a balanced way," he said.

Fire ants don't like extreme heat or cold, so hopefully the upcoming freezing temperatures will send the ants back under ground.

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