Fire Ant Season is on the Horizon, Prepare and Protect the Kiddos
It's still pretty cold here in East Texas, but we all know that's not going to last long. Before you know it, it's springtime and while we were bundled up inside avoiding the frosty air, our favorite non-native intruder - the fire ant - is getting ready to make moves as they start to build their mounds of soft soil on or near your property.
There's an innate hatred of fire ants and if you've even been stung by one... or six, you probably share that same mentality. Since it's clear we cannot completely eradicate this species - the United States has tried some interesting strategies (see video) - it's up to us to take preventative measures before it even becomes a problem on your property where you may have kids and animals wandering around.
Contrary to our native ants in Texas, Solenopsis invicta are medium-sized red and black ants, according to Texas A&M Agrilife Research. Their stings hurt and can leave a white pustule on the skin. The reason why these buggers are feared so much is because of their aggressive nature and unrelenting and uniform attacks. And it takes very little to disturb them.
We expect to see those big mounds of soil popping up as it gets warmer and the air gets dryer. Local news sources such as KTRE always have stories pop up about fire ant problems in spring and there's no reason to expect anything different this year. In fact, floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey could have helped colonies migrate somewhere else in Texas!
So what do you do?
Most sources will tell you to use the Two-Step Method, broadcasting bait for your first step. Basically you want to broadcast this stuff all over your property where you suspect colonies are popping up. The idea is to get those ants to bring the bait back to the queen, which could kill the colony.
After baiting, you take the fight to individual mounds with the stuff. KTRE says the best way to fight fire ants is to treat your home twice a year - in late October-November and in late March-April.
This YouTube video shows a pretty effective and cheap way to handle a fire ant colony. I haven't tried it myself but the video certainly shows that it's one way to handle fire ants.
You can also use insecticide, however this treatment tends to be more expensive and can potentially lead to environmental contamination - especially if you use too much or it rains shortly after applying it. Find the right method for you depending on cost-effectiveness, whether it's eco-friendly, and just how much you hate the species Solenopsis invicta. Just know, it's impossible to kill all of them. I mean, the word invicta means "undefeated" in Latin!
If you or your family like to run around barefoot in your backyard or around the house, take the necessary precautions. Their stings really are not fun to deal with.