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Fire Ants on a Northward March Face NC Pest Control Brigade

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GARNER — Fire antscould be marching into your neighborhood. They are moving northward, but not without opposition. State inspectors want to enlist you in the battle to stomp out the biting bugs.

The latest projections have the fire ants moving as far north as Baltimore. They cannot go much farther because they cannot handle the cold weather. That meansNorth Carolina is right in the path of infestation.

State inspectors found 17 fire ant mounds in Kim Murphy's yard.

"We're familiar with the fire ants," Murphy says. "We come from Florida and they hurt. And they're very dangerous to small animals and children and we're just very concerned."

So is the state. The fire ant infestation is closing in on the southern edge of the Triangle.

A half-dozen people, including Rebecca Romano, formthe state's last line of defense.

Romano says the team of six inspectors shares a common goal. "We don't want them to move any further north or west. That's our main goal, is to try to keep them out of the uninfested areas," Romano says.

Romano admits the team is fighting an uphill battle. Wavingher pesticide wandis not going to do the trick.

"We've got so many sites in this area I can't handle them all," Romano says. "I can't be at every place every single week." Romano says there are 552 sites in Wake County alone.

While people like Romano try to hold off the advancing ant army, the state may have another weapon in its arsenal. Next spring it will experiment with the fire ant's natural enemy, theBrazilian Phorid fly.

"It solicits and finds the fire ant, lays the eggs inside," explains Plant Pest Administrator Gene Cross. "The larvae develop inside the fire ant and tunnel through the fire ant to the head. And they begin eating inside the head and eventually the cavity is depleted and the head just drops off."

Kim Murphy hopes the solution works, since she has experienced the fire ant's fury firsthand. "I hate to think it's going to get out of control because it's going to be a big nuisance," she says.

If you think you have fire ants in your yard, the state will spray them for free as long as you live outsidethe infestation zone. For more information, call (919) 733-2483. Officials say it is important to call even if you just suspect you have fire ants. The bugs are spreading so quickly because they are going undetected.

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Len Besthoff, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
Julie Moos, Web Editor

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