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AntsGarden PestsOutdoors
September 25, 2023

Identifying Fire Ant Infestations and Treating Bites, Stings

Is your North Carolina property under siege by invasive fire ants? Are you tired of dealing with their painful bites and relentless colonies? Well, grab your extinguisher (this is a bad joke, don't actually grab it)! In this comprehensive post, we will provide you witheverything you need to know about identifying, controlling, and preventing fire ants.

Fire ants can be a major nuisance, causing irritation and discomfort for both humans and pets due to their nasty bites and painful stings.

We will delve into the most effective methods of eliminating fire ants, taking into account North Carolina's unique environment and regulations. From natural remedies to commercial products, we'll explore a range of solutions to suit your preferences and unique situation.

Identifying Fire Ant Infestation in North Carolina

It's important to be able to identify a fire ant infestation, especially in regions like North Carolina where they are prevalent. Here are some key signs to look out for:

1.1 Fire Ant Mounds

One of the most obvious signs of a fire ant infestation is the presence of fire ant mounds. These mounds can vary in size and are typically made of loose soil. Fire ant mounds can be found in various locations such as lawns, gardens, and even along the edges of sidewalks.

Pay close attention to mounds that appear irregularly shaped and have no obvious entrance or exit holes as these are typically characteristic of fire ant activity.

1.2 Red Imported Fire Ants

In North Carolina, the most common type of fire ant is the Red Imported Fire Ant. These ants are reddish-brown in color and vary in size, with worker ants measuring around1/16 to1/4 of an inch in length Identifying the specific characteristics of this speciation can help in confirming a fire ant infestation.

1.3 Disturb & Observe

Another way to identify a fire ant infestation is through the disturb and observe method. This involves disturbing the area near a suspected fire ant mound and observing the ants' behavior. Fire ants are known for their aggressive nature and they will quickly swarm and sting if their mound is disturbed. If you observe a swarm of reddish-brown ants quickly emerging from the disturbed area and stinging, it's a strong indication of a fire ant infestation.

Be Careful!: When disturbing a fire ant mound be sure to use a long object such as a stick to avoid getting any ants on you!

1.4 Damage to Plants and Structures

Fire ant infestations can also lead to noticeable damage to plants and structures. These little guys are opportunistic feeders and will actively seek out food sources such as insects, seeds, young plants, or your bbq leftovers.

If you notice plants wilting, seeds being hollowed out, or damage to the roots, it may be a result of fire ants foraging for food. Additionally, fire ants can cause structural damage by nesting in or around electrical equipment, air conditioning units, and even inside buildings such as an out-house or shed.

Understanding the Behavior of Fire Ants

Fire ants, specifically the red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta), are notorious pests known for their aggressive behavior and painful stings. To effectively manage fire ant infestations and treat bites and stings, it's crucial to have a solid understanding of their behavior:

1. Behavior of Fire Ants:

a. Colonization and Nesting:

Fire ants are social insects that live in large colonies. They build nests, often referred to as fire ant mounds, which are typically found in open, sunny areas such as lawns, fields, and meadows.

b. Foraging and Food Source:

Fire ants are omnivorous and opportunistic feeders. They scavenge for food, consuming a wide range of organic matter including insects, seeds, plants, and even small animals. They are attracted to sweet substances and protein-based foods. It's normal to see worker ants wandering a significant distance from their nest to forage for food.

c. Defensive Mechanisms:

Fire ants are extremely protective of their nests and will aggressively defend their territory. When disturbed, they swarm out of the mound and inflict painful stings, injecting venom into their victims.

The Importance of Quick Fire Ant Control

Fire ant infestations can quickly become a nuisance and pose potential risks to both humans and pets. Therefore, implementing timely fire ant control measures is crucial in order to prevent the infestation from spreading and to minimize the chances of bites or stings. Let's explore why quick fire ant control is of utmost importance:

1. Avoid Health Complications:

Fire ants are notorious for their painful stings, and individuals who are allergic to their venom or have a sensitivity to insect bites may experience severe reactions. Implementing quick fire ant control can significantly reduce the likelihood of these encounters and safeguard the well-being of individuals.

2. Protect Outdoor Activities:

Fire ant mounds can pop up almost anywhere, from residential lawns and gardens to public parks and recreational areas. If left untreated, these colonies can multiply rapidly and create a hazardous environment for outdoor activities. Children playing, pets roaming, or even unsuspecting individuals enjoying a picnic can inadvertently disturb fire ant mounds, resulting in painful bites or stings.

3. Prevent Damage to Structures:

Fire ants are not confined to outdoor spaces alone; they can also infiltrate structures. They are known to establish nests in walls, electrical equipment, and even air conditioning units. The presence of fire ants within your home or commercial building can lead to costly damages, such as electrical shorts or compromised structural integrity.

4. Preserve the Ecosystem:

Fire ants are invasive species, particularly the notorious Red Imported Fire Ant (Solenopsis invicta), native to South America. When introduced to new areas, these aggressive ants can outcompete native ant species and disrupt the delicate balance of ecosystems.

The Two-Step Method for Fire Ant Control

When it comes to effectively tackling fire ant infestations, the two-step method has proven to be a reliable and efficient approach. This method involves a combination of broadcast spreading and targeted treatment, ensuring comprehensive control and long-term results.

It is recommended that you utilize professional pest control services such as Aruza for treating fire ants. These insects can be incredibly dangerous and it is best if a professional treats infestations!

Step 1: Broadcast Spreading

One of the initial steps in fire ant control is the broadcast spreading of a granular insecticide over the infested area. This method is particularly effective in treating large fire ant mounds and vast infested zones. The granular insecticide is spread using a broadcast spreader, ensuring even coverage and reaching the fire ants in their nests.

Step 2: Targeted Treatment

After the initial broadcast spreading, it's time to focus on specific fire ant mounds and colony sites. This step involves the use of ant bait or insecticide, targeting individual nests for more precise control. Fire ants will be attracted to the bait, carrying it back to the colony, which helps eliminate the entire population.

To achieve the best results with the two-step method, it is crucial to follow the instructions and recommendations provided on the product label. Proper application and dosage are essential for effective fire ant control.

One should remember that fire ants are known for their resilience, so it's important to be persistent in the treatment approach. Multiple treatments may be required to completely eradicate the infestation, especially in larger areas with well-established fire ant colonies.

This can be quite a lot for a casual homeowner, consider contacting us to schedule your fire ant control solution!

Protecting Yourself from Fire Ant Stings

Fire ant stings can be painful and may cause allergic reactions in some individuals. It is crucial to take appropriate measures to protect yourself from these stings when dealing with fire ant infestations. Here are some effective strategies to safeguard yourself:

Wear Protective Clothing:

When working in areas where fire ants are present, always wear protective clothing such as long sleeves, long pants, socks, and closed-toe shoes. Tucking your pants into your socks can add an extra layer of protection.

Avoid Disturbing Fire Ant Mounds:

Fire ants are known for their aggressive behavior when their nests are disturbed. Steer clear of fire ant colonies and avoid stepping on or near their mounds.

Use Caution When Working or Playing Outdoors:

If you are engaged in any outdoor activities such as gardening or landscaping, be watchful for fire ant activity. Inspect the area before starting any work and take necessary precautions. This includes verifying the ground is clear before making any golf swings, lol. 

Be Vigilant Around Potential Fire Ant Food Sources:

Fire ants are attracted to food sources such as pet food, picnic leftovers, and fallen fruit. Keep your outdoor areas clean and promptly discard any food waste to deter their presence.

How do I treat a fire ant bite/sting?

If you are bitten/stung by a fire ant, immediately remove the stinger with a pin or needle. If the stinger is large, cut it off with a knife. If the stinger is small, pull it out with your fingers.

For fire ant bite/stings on the skin, pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol on the bite/sting. Wipe the area clean with a cloth. Apply an ice pack to the area for at least15 minutes. If the bite/sting is on the face, wash the area with soap and water. Apply an antibiotic ointment to the area if available.

Allergic to Fire Ant Bites or Stings?

If the person bitten or stung is allergic, move the victim away from the fire ant mound and ensure they do not have any ants on them. Call 911, remove the stingers, apply a cold compress, and if they have an epi-pen, help them to administer it.Continue to monitor the victim's heart rate and ensure that it is neither too slow or too fast. If there is a significant change in heart rate, call 911 again.

Consider professional help:

If the fire ant problem persists or becomes overwhelming, seeking help from a professional pest control service, such as Aruza Pest Control, can provide long-term solutions.

Our trained technicians can assess your situation and implement effective treatments to eradicate fire ant colonies.

It is crucial to be able to identify fire ant infestations and treat their bites and stings effectively. By learning how to recognize their mounds and understanding their behavior, you can take proactive steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Ian Gunn

Graduated from UNC Charlotte, Ian Gunn is an expert in all things pest. After receiving his bachelors of science, he got a job offer with Aruza Pest Control and assists with marketing, networking, and occasionally doing some pest control of his own!

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