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Fire Ants ~~ the Good, the Bad, and the Awful

This bench is easy to construct and is portable. It is an excellent spot to enjoy some cool breezes and hear the sounds of nature.

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.

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...

fire-ants-the-good-the-bad-and-the-awful

The AWFUL....scarring from this summer's ant bites

fire-ants-the-good-the-bad-and-the-awful

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.

fire-ants-the-good-the-bad-and-the-awful

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.



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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

These insects we often despise have been found to have a substantial effect in helping to control harmful pests found on crops.

Insect PestCrop

caterpillars

cotton & soy bean

grasshoppers/crickets

cotton only

weevils

cotton & soybeans

stink bugs

soybean only

tarnished plant bugs

cotton & soybean

leaf hoppers

cotton & soybean

More AWFUL----My grandson's leg has been bitten again and again.

fire-ants-the-good-the-bad-and-the-awful

The AWFUL

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

http://jerileewei.hubpages.com/hub/Firing-the-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.

Sources

The source for general information about fire ants is from the University of Florida website posted below.

http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/ants/red_imported_fire_ant.


Information on organic control of fire ants is listed below:

htmhttp://www.dirtdoctor.com/Organic-Fire-Ant-Control_vq123.htm

Information on boric acid can be found at the link below

http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/borictech.html


Information on the good fire ants do is found at the site listed below

http://www.aaes.auburn.edu/comm/pubs/highlightsonline/spring00/fireant.html




© 2013 Patricia Scott

Comments

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on March 27, 2015:

Poetryman...and we are thankful for whatever respite we find from those nasty little critters. they must be food for some other animal...there must be a reason they are on the planet.

Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on March 27, 2015:

I know...all kinds of 'stuffs' used on the skin to act as an armor before venturing out. I saw huge mounds yesterday so know they are awaiting soft tender flesh to dine on....

thanks for visiting Shyron....

have a lovely weekend

Angels are winging their way to you this morning ps

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on March 27, 2015:

I thank you for that and have done that but to no avail. They are a huge problem in our area. It would be necessary to flood the acreage to really make a difference and then they would come back after the neighbor chases them away.

They do not go away...they migrate from one yard to the next and if you are rid of them for a bit, alas, they return.

I just keep on waging war against them...Lady G

Angels are on the way to you this morning.

poetryman6969 on March 27, 2015:

I don't know how to get rid of them for good. I just move them around from place to place. I count as victory when their mounds appear furthest from the house. We have an uneasy truce. They are allowed to commandeer areas near streets and alleys.

When they break the peace and establish beachheads near the house there are consequences. Sometimes I will pour boiling water on their vulnerable bodies and watch as they attack an enemy they do not understand--and die in their dozens.

The next day, when their mound shows up somewhere else, I return to that slightly sweet smelling store bought concoction that always makes them disappear within 24 hours.

And the peace returns for a week or so.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on March 27, 2015:

Patricia, I just saw day before yesterday at least 10 mounds in my yard and right now I have to get out there and mow. I hate those things. I put Skinstastic from Avon all over my legs when I am working outside it seems to help. They do not like the smell, which is pleasant.

Good luck with your battle.

Blessings and Hugs. ss

Debra Allen from West By God on March 27, 2015:

Pour boiling water down their nest. It kills them on contact and will reash the queen and all the babies. You may have to do two or three rounds of this, but it works. They also may have several nests and you will have to do them all in your yard.

Between the sand spurs and the fire ants it was difficult to walk in the yard without shoes. I lived in North/Central Florida (Deltona) for 5 years. I learned lots of what NOT TO DO while there.

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on March 26, 2015:

You know what, Au Fait...I will try anything. My son in law is able to do electrical wiring so I will see what he can rig up for me Fire Ants never really went away this winter so now that it is spring they are in full bloom huge mounds.

Thanks for stopping to read and for sharing.

Angels are once again headed your way ps

C E Clark from North Texas on March 26, 2015:

I'm allergic to fire ants. Not only do the bites swell up the size of hills, but I get sinus congestion and asthma. They're nasty critters for sure. Even worse than fleas and ticks and mosquitos.

They burrow far down into the ground for protection from the elements and it works pretty well for them. Their burrow could well be several miles from where you live and still they would come up in your kitchen, bedroom, or backyard. I've heard they've moved as far north now as Canada.

I heard of a contraption that was invented by I don't remember who, but since these horrid things love electricity, it was an electrical gadget that would vibrate. When the ants would pour into the bowl of the gadget and it was sufficiently full, they would all be electrocuted. Mean, eh? Well, fire ants aren't exactly laden with ethical inclinations.

Voted up, UI, pinned to Awesome HubPages and shared.

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on March 15, 2015:

Deb I know. I hate using those terribly toxic chemicals. I do hope that over time the boric acid does not prove to be harmful. But it is a war. They are awful!!!!!

They never went away this winter here either. The mounds are big and filled with activity.

Know that Angels are once again winging their way to you ps

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on March 14, 2015:

I wanted to read this, as I have heard of the ants, but never encountered them. I'm not a fan of commercial poisoning, but would try the boric acid. I learned a lot from this piece.

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on December 27, 2014:

Hi Rtalloni And the really annoying part is they are still going strong and it is December almost January. The weather has not deterred them as we have not had long enough periods of cold to make them hibernate or whatever they do.

Poohie.

thanks for visiting. Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

RTalloni on December 23, 2014:

Among the few insects I really hate, this one shares the top of the list. The very top. I want to stomp them, burn them out, and eradicate every memory of them I have. There aren't words to describe my feelings about them. Not very charitable, I know, but I/we've had some bad experiences with them. A really bad-boy brand of them has moved into our neighborhood and I'm thinking of giving up gardening. Glad to see options for people to choose from in dealing with them posted here.

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on February 10, 2014:

Hi Shyron

the really horrible thing is that they are NOT gone this winter. Now I live in Florida but we have had a pretty cold winter overall. But the ants have not abated, not one little bit, this winter.

They have been kind of dormant but as soon as I am out they say, O Yum, she is here!!!

The new mounds are appearing too. And I will share if I can find something to at least make them leave the property for a bit.

angels are on the way to you today ps

Tom Schumacher from Huntington Beach, CA on February 09, 2014:

Wow, the pics of scarring from ant bites was scary. I never realized ants were capable of inflicting such damage. Personally, I work in the yard during the spring and summer months and come into contact with black and red ants frequently. Although I use something other than boric acid, I have employed the same techniques you describe in your hub to combat what often feels like strategically designed invasions and it works.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on February 09, 2014:

pstraubie48 my first experience was with these little beast was when we first moved here to Texas, and we wer clearing our property. My husband's legs looked like he had boiling water poured on them. He went to the doctor and was given a shot for what the doctor thought was poison oak, and although the shot worked to help with the healing (a shot that is now banned, because it works for poison oak) we found out that it was fire ant bites.

There is no way to get rid of them, there are just to many as I stated in my hub about The Battle with the Beasts.

If you find something that will stop thes beasts, please let me know before summer.

Have a blessed week, hopefully ant free.

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on November 02, 2013:

Me, too, Rebecca. Yesterday, November 1st, mind you, I was out trying to rid the yard of the plague of them. I had read in one comment above from Peggy W that someone had told her carbonated soda works; she said she tried it and it works. So that's what I tried to see if it will help. When it is daylight I will go see.

thanks for stopping by...

more Angels are headed your way!!! ps

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on November 01, 2013:

Hey! Cool info here. I struggle with these critters all year long. I DESPISE their nasty little bites. Angels back at ya!

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on October 04, 2013:

Hi DDE This year has been the worst for them in many years. Now it is October and the yard is still full of them I just got eaten up again day before yesterday!!

It is really a nuisance. I have to watch so carefully when we are out so that the baby does not get bitten.

Thanks for visiting. Angels are on the way. ps

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on October 03, 2013:

FIRE ANTS the Good, the Bad, and the Awful I have seen a few documentaries on fire ants and how people are in pain when bitten. Hmm makes the hairs on my hands stand up just thinking about it. An interesting write up here and this hub is useful to all readers

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on August 30, 2013:

Hi Peggy

I will give it a try. We often find bottled sodas on sale here and while I do not buy them often I will definitely give this a try. Maybe they get so much gas from them they explode. O, dear..that was corny, I know.

Thanks for the visit.

Angels are on the way to you this afternoon. ps

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 30, 2013:

They are terrible and can actually kill a calf in a field or other creatures. We have our yard treated twice yearly with insecticide granules like Dursban or something similar. Seems to keep the ants under control. I discovered another remedy by chance. I was reading a post somewhere about how carbonated sodas can kill ants.

We have a grocery store called HEB that often has what they call "meal deals." Buy one product and get others for free. Oftentimes they give away 2 liter bottles of soda. My husband and I do not drink sodas and I had been giving them away.

One day I noticed an ant hill forming in our yard. I poured the entire bottle of soda on it and guess what...it worked! So now I keep those bottles on hand when we get them for treating ants. It must be the carbonation that works. It doesn't matter what brand of soda you use.

Good luck and blessings to you and your family.

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on August 19, 2013:

Good morning Pamela

the good of this story is that we are learning to stay out of their way MOST of the time. Every now and then they still sneak up on us. the bad bites in all of these instances have been from stepping in them when there wasn't really a way to see them...maybe they were in grass or something at the edge of the property.

But we keep on treating them and hoping for the best.

Thank you for visiting, my Friend.

Have a lovely week.

Angels are on the way ps

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 18, 2013:

I treat various places in the yard for different types of ants with an ant powder I buy at Home Depot, but they just move around to different spots in the yard or maybe the neighbor's yard. Anyway, those bites look horrible, and I think you are allergic to them. We have some red ants but I don't think we have as many as you. Sorry you are having such a problem. Sending angels and blessings your way.

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on August 18, 2013:

Hi Flourish

They are painful but treating them quickly helps relieve the pain and itch.

Still a daily battle to control them.

Thanks for stopping by.

Angels are on the way to you this morning. ps

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 18, 2013:

Ouch those bites look painful. I remember fire ants in Georgia and South Carolina as a child. Itching, burning like nothing else. Hope you find a better solution.

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on August 17, 2013:

Hi drbj

I hope all is good with you this Saturday afternoon. I have decided that when I am going in the yard hip boots and long rubber gloves will get the job done!!!

Those tiny bugs can cause me to scurry in a hurry!

Nice to see you today.

Angels are on the way ps

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on August 17, 2013:

Hi drbj

I hope all is good with you this Saturday afternoon. I have decided that when I am going in the yard hip boots and long rubber gloves will get the job done!!!

Those tiny bugs can cause me to scurry in a hurry!

Nice to see you today.

Angels are on the way ps

drbj and sherry from south Florida on August 17, 2013:

You are very brave, Patricia, to get that close to the nest of those vicious fire ants in order to make your video. You seem to be particularly allergic to their bites so be VERY careful when venturing outdoors. And stock up on that boric acid.

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on August 14, 2013:

Actually getting away from this is a bit exciting. The trick is always to dodge the bite.

Angels are on the way to you this afternoon. ps

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on August 14, 2013:

Hi Pearl

You are so right...citrus oil does sending the packing from that mound. And they set up housekeeping in another location. Controlling them just seems to be the answer.

They don't really go away unless there is such a tiny infestation that they haven't taken hold. Where I live no one had lived here for a long time and the ants had a chance to really take hold. So I keep on keeping on trying to keep them from taking over.

thanks for sharing the tip, Pearl. Have a lovely day. Angels are the way to you and to your friend who shared the tip ps

Connie Smith from Southern Tier New York State on August 14, 2013:

pstraubie, My friends from the Carolinas have had really good luck with citrus oil. They use it right on the mound, and it sends them packing. I found this out because they had trouble with the fire ants attacking baby birds in their bird houses.

I know citrus oil can be found on Amazon, and I imagine your local nursery or landscape place would have a source as well. The good thing is that it is environmentally friendly. Good luck with getting rid of those well-named nasty critters ;) Pearl

Voted Up+++ and shared

Mark Johann from New Zealand on August 14, 2013:

I am excited and interested with your hub. Itchy and needle pain creatures on the ground.

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on August 14, 2013:

Hi Faith

For sure the rain has been plentiful this summer. And for that I am thankful as I have had a steady supply to use for watering on days when there was no rain. But of course it has been a battle to keep mosquitos at bay. Both ants and mosquitos ...it is like we are under siege!!

I understand your grandbabies hesitation in going into the yard but we as grandma's can guide them to avoid those pests.

Thanks for your visit, my Friend. Have a lovely day to day.

Angels are winging their way to you this early morning ps

Faith Reaper from southern USA on August 13, 2013:

Hi PS,

Well it is a stormy day here, and the mosquitos have been bad this year and one of my granddaughters is almost too scared to go out into the yard since being bitten just once, and not a fire ant. LOL Sound like getting older too . . . hehehe

It has rained almost every day this summer, which has made it a cooler summer here. We have even had to turn off the air conditioning and that never happens in July and August!

I could not hardly look at your photos of those terrible bites. When my grands come up, my husband goes out and tries to treat them, but, like you, we just make them aware of where they are, and to stay away from the mound.

Interesting and well-written article as always. Voted Up +++ and sharing

God bless, sending Angels to protect you and your grandson from those fire ants for sure!!!

Faith Reaper

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on August 13, 2013:

Hi Anna

We just keep plugging away hoping to control them well enough so we can avoid an inevitable. bite.

They just move around from spot to spot...and with so many hidden underground is easy for them to relocate.

thanks for visiting this evening.

Angels are on the way to you and yours. ps

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on August 13, 2013:

Hi Anna

We just keep plugging away hoping to control them well enough so we can avoid an inevitable. bite.

They just move around from spot to spot...and with so many hidden underground is easy for them to relocate.

thanks for visiting this evening.

Angels are on the way to you and yours. ps

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on August 13, 2013:

Hi craftytothecore

Yes, they are nasty. And I understand your hesitation to move here. It has really been a daily conscious effort on my part to avoid them this summer. I read and search and listen looking for the answer to ending them. As I mentioned in the article, most who know about them (and are not trying to just sell a product) admit that controlling them is what we must do.

Thanks for visiting. Angels are on the way to you and your family ps

Patricia Scott (author) from North Central Florida on August 13, 2013:

Hi Bill

I wish I had had my camera outside today. I could have gotten some excellent photos of new mounds today. They are really the pits this year...not to be redundant.

When I lived in VA as a little girl I remember only the picnic ants...the tiny little friendly ants that came to your picnic and had a snack. Fire ants entered the picture when I moved to Florida. It is my only real issue with my adopted state so I find a way to deal with them.

Angels and hugs and blessings right back atcha"!!! ps

Anna Haven from Scotland on August 13, 2013:

Your hub was really interesting and well written.

I really feel for you. Those bites looked horrific and inflamed.

I hope you find a way to eradicate them from your garden soon.

Anna

CraftytotheCore on August 13, 2013:

Horrible little creatures. I visited Texas years ago and while raking, I raked over a hidden nest on to my foot and leg (while wearing shorts and flip flips). I'm from the Northeast. We don't have fire ants. I had never heard of them. It was the stings from the fiery pits of you know where! I ran like a cartoon character escaping roadrunner in to the bathtub and sprayed the biting nasty little critters until they were finally circling the drain. True to this day, that's one thing I'm scared about moving to a southern state ~ fire ants!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 13, 2013:

Sheez! Remind me not to visit your place. If we have them here I don't remember seeing them. I'm sure we do, but they don't hang out in the city where we are. I think I was bitten as a child but it's been a long, long time ago.

Nasty little buggers for sure. Good luck with them.

blessings and a hug for ya

bill

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