Fire ants : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

What do fire ants look like? I always thought they were more in the deep south (I live in KY.) but recently I've been seeing ants I've never seen before. They are big - at least an inch long - and red. Are they fire ants? Do they bite?

-- barbara (, July 13, 2000


We got fireants here in Texas. I know exactly what they look, and feel, like. They are tiny. Only about one eigth inch or smaller. Real little. Dark colored. Like real dark brown. Some are redish. Sting and bite like hell and leave a little pustule that itches after awhile. If you stir up their mound, even touch it, they just go crazy with activity. Their mound is usually only about six inches to a foot across but sometimes mounds combine and a mound can be three feet across and a half foot tall. They dissappear when it's hot and dry but after a little rain mounds pop up all over the place.

-- Joe Cole (, July 13, 2000.

Er, that should be "one eighth inch". Sorry. Anyway, they're real little.

-- Joe Cole (, July 13, 2000.

The ant you described sounds like what we call a wood ant. Much larger than expected to see, usually nest in the rotting part of a tree, and to my knowledge do not sting. You will never see very many at any given time. Hope this helps.

-- JerryR(La.) (, July 13, 2000.

Fire ants are just now showing up in Southern TN, so I don't think they are in KY yet. However, with these mild winters we are having... Sounds like what you are seeing are what are called 'cow killers' in this area. Catch at least one and take it into your ag agent for identification. I've heard chickens are really good at fire ant control.

-- Ken Scharabok (, July 13, 2000.

Fire ants kill chickens and anything that nests on the ground will have dead babies. Wild rabbits, quail, they'll kill your baby ducks and anything small. Fire ants are a real curse. They kill harvester ants which are food for a lot of birds but, there's a good side, fire ants kill and eat ticks and fleas. In a couple of cases here in Texas elderly people have had strokes and fell near fire ant mounds and were killed by millions of ants before anyone could find them.

-- Joe Cole (, July 13, 2000.

So how does one control these wonderful sounding fire ants? Anything non toxic that will killthem?

-- Sue (, July 13, 2000.

There is a citrus oil or orange oil based stuff that is supposed to control them and it's not toxic. I forget the name of it. It was recommended to me by our state ag agent. Some people use a stuff that makes them sterile but it takes a couple of years to see results. By that time everything has been eaten up. Most people around here use 5 per cent Diazanon. But it's toxic to birds. You can use Sevin Dust directly on the little rascals but that's not very effectve. You can use about a gallon of boiling water directly into the mound and that works but it's kinda' hard to lug a gallon of boiling water around the pasture. You could do like thay do over in Marshall, Texas and just celebrate as they do with the Annual Fire Ant Festival. They have a Miss Fire Ant and all kinds of fun. Fire ants are a real problem. However, it seems that after a few years around here they just aren't as bad as they were about 10 years ago. I don't know why. Dry weather is hard on them. When they sting it hurts like hell. Look at one closely and you'll see it bite you and then curl its body around and sting you in the same place. Usually if you step on a mound and stay there a few seconds you'll have a hundred of them up your pants leg before you know it. It's not unusual to be driving down a road and look out across a pasture at some farmer working on his fence or something and he suddenly jerks his pants down and starts jumping around. Everybody around here knows what happened and thinks nothing of it.

-- Joe Cole (, July 13, 2000.

Thanks Joe and Jerry. Sounds like what I saw was not a fire ant. Thank goodness. I have heard they are terrible and you confirmed that. Ken, keep those fire ants down there in Tennessee! We don't want them in Ky! Hope you are in the Southern part of Tennessee! Yes, you are right the winters lately have been too mild. While I'm not fond of real cold weather, we do need one now and then to keep the critters under control!

-- barbara (, July 13, 2000.

The best action to control fire ants is to catch them early. Ant baits such as Amdro do a good job at killing individual mounds. They are best applied in unison with your neighbors, as the ants will simply move next door otherwise. Fire ants first moved in at our cottage in Myrtle Beach, SC ten years ago, and we have kept them under control with Amdro.

-- Ed (, July 13, 2000.

In OK they have big red ants that make an ant hill at least a foot across. They are very easy to spot because they remove all vegetation around the area. They bite/sting and it hurts quite a bit. I was stung on the neck when I was in grade school - OUCH! Don't know what their name is - I just avoid them.

-- Vaughn (, July 13, 2000.

Fireants are the main reason I have chickens. Those chooks gobble up those gawd awful devils.

Amdro is excellent. With all my critters roaming around tho, I sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth on the mounds. Gets rid of 'em all in a couple of hours, just like Amdro.

Found this on the web; can't believe those little buggers do SOMEthing good! (I don't know how true this is.) Fire ants are tick predators - normally yards with fire ants also do not have ticks. They also control the ground stage of horn flies.

-- ~Rogo (, July 14, 2000.

Most ranchers around me curse the fire ant, 'specially when they find what's left of a cow who was down and couldn't stand. The fire ants can consume an entire cow in an unbelievably short time. Here's another take on the subject:

-- ~Rogo (, July 14, 2000.

I've heard Amdro is good but I've never used it. I've also heard that DE (I can't spell that diawhatever earth) is supposed to be good for putting it around the perimiter of your house or barn and it keeps fire ants from coming inside. Fire ants are attracted to electricity for some reason. They'll get in our well pump box and short out the points and they'll get in air conditioners and fuse boxes and short stuff out. Those ants reported above in OK sound like harvester ants. They're, believe it or not, beneficial I hear. We used to have them but fire ants ate them all up. Fire ants will kill about anything that is born on the ground that is small like a bird or rabbit or chicken or duck etc. You can't get rid of them but all I read and hear is try to "control" them. Most people don't try to get rid of them in their pastures but just try to keep them out of their yards and houses.

-- Joe Cole (, July 14, 2000.

I just lost my rooster to a combination of heat stress and fire ants. I came home to find him down and the fire ants were eating his eyes and down into his mouth. It was despicable, and he was still alive. I tried to wash the ants off of him and he died.

I don't know why, but the fire ants at my place this year are the worst ever. I have never used poison before, but this year I had to as they had mounds under the foundation of my barn and one shed, no way to cover those mounds with DE.

-- Doreen (, July 14, 2000.

Amdro does work well for fireants, and you usually don't need to use nearly as much as what the directions say. But in the organic garden Amdro is a no no. I believe it has arsenic in it, and you don't want that near your vegetables. Good old boiling water works the best in the garden. You can't use it if the ants are right around the plant roots, but if they are you can get them to move over sometimes, by disturbing them over and over, annoying them till they move their mound. Then you can get them. Pour about 3-4 gallons of boiling water right in the center of the mound, and keep it from running off so it soaks right into the center of the mound. Sometimes I use a posthole digger to dig down a little in the center first, but make sure you keep your feet out of the way. The goal is to cook the queen. If you can get enough boiling water in the hole so that it is still hot when it gets down to her wherever she is, then you've got her.

When I've done this, usually the workers get busy and build the mound back up by the next morning. If it looks real active I may do it again, but most often if you give it three days you'll see that the mound dies out.

-- Lela Picking (, July 18, 2000.

Barbara, I don't know if this is the same thing but last year I saw a large red insect that I would describe as being like a wingless bee in body shape and the red was almost a flourescent fuschia in color. It was about 1" long as well. I was also curious as to whether or not it was a fire ant so I went on the web to entomologists at several universities and two of them came back and told me what it was. One even provided a picture so I was able to confirm it. It was some kind of a ground dwelling bee and for the life of me I can't remember what they called it but if my description sounds like what you saw, e-mail me privately and I will find my old e-mails and tell you for sure what it is. They did mention to be careful with it because it can sting. I only saw one and have never seen another one.

-- Colleen (, July 19, 2000.

I dug through my files and found the e-mails on this one. The bug I had is called a velvet ant. They are actually wasps. The females are wingless and this gives rise to the name "ant". Their scientific name is Hymenoptera:Mutillidae. I have to admit it was a very pretty bug but since the female can give a pretty good sting, I'm glad I didn't try to capture it.

-- Colleen (, July 19, 2000.

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