The ants used to be common in the southern part of the state, and since 1995, they have been spreading. The insects have moved as far north as Johnston, Wilson and Edgecombe counties.
Fire ants have taken over parts of Millie Stanley's yard.
"I had my cane, and I raked down in there, and they rolled out," she says. "You can't imagine, unless you saw them, how they came out."
Many people think fire ants are large, red insects. Actually, they are the tiny, busy ants that cover the ground.
When fire ants attack, it feels like a yellowjacket or wasp sting, says Bryan Page, a Wayne County extension agent. He has been bitten several times.
"It's nothing you want to go out and experience for yourself," he says.
The best way to protect yourself from fire ant attacks is to keep an eye on your yard. Walk carefully and avoid mounds or strange-looking dirt. The fire ants will not come out unless their nest is disturbed.
As far as getting rid of fire ant infestation, experts say some pesticides are helpful. However, the nest will not be destroyed until the queen is killed.
It is believed that fire ants were brought from South America in the 1920's. Some theorize their robust population in the United States stems from having no natural predators.