Local News

Fire Ants Active This Time of Year

Posted October 22, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— If you've ever run into them, you never forget it. Victims of fire ants say the stings inflict some of the most intense pain they've ever felt. The ants are especially active right now and there are plenty of them in the area.

The mounds of dirt where fire ants live would look normal just about anywhere in eastern North Carolina, but if you look closely, you find that they are brimming with thousands of fire ants. Asa Spain found them in his yard this week and knew to stay away. He's been stung before.

Someone accidentally brought fire ants to America in the 1930's. They first showed up in Alabama, then quickly migrated to North Carolina. Today, nearly a third of the state's counties, mostly southeast of Raleigh, are infested. Extension Agent Sam Uzzell says not only are the stings painful, they can also be dangerous.

In fact fire ants have killed about 50 Americans in 60 years. Scientists say this is the time of year you can do the most effective job of protecting your land. Specifically designed chemicals will slowly kill off the colony.

If you do decide to fight back, you have to be careful the way you approach it. If you were to come out here with ordinary household bug killer, and spray it on this mound, you'd do more harm than good.

That would kill a few dozen on top, and encourage the hundreds beneath the soil to spread out. The nearly invisible mounds seem to be everywhere right now, so the experts say keep an eye on your land and watch where you step.

You can find insecticide made specifically for fire ants at most gardening and hardware stores. It usually takes several weeks for the poison to kill the entire community