Ants are probably the most common pest problem and even the cleanest of homes can have them for what appears to be no reason. They are always searching for food and water and, since they are social insects, they scout for new supplies together. That is why you will find them even in the cleanest, well kept home.
Fire Ants are medium-sized red and black ants who, when disturbed, emerge aggressively, biting and stinging “all at once”. Their sting usually leaves a white pustule on the skin. They build mounds of soft soil which are usually not larger than 18″ in diameter and have no central openings.
According to Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Service, fire ants can’t be eliminated entirely because it’s not possible to treat all areas that are infested. The goal of current integrated pest management programs is to suppress fire ants as much as possible with biological control methods and use insecticides only where it is economically and environmentally justifiable to do so.
There may not be one “best” method for fire ant control, especially in large areas. The objective should be to find the method or methods that are cost effective and environmentally sound. In areas where these ants do not present problems, doing nothing is certainly one option.
Fire ants tend to sting when the object they are on moves because they are sensitive to vibration or movement. Usually, whatever causes one ant to bite and sting will then trigger the other ants to sting at the same time.
Only a very small portion of the population are hypersensitive to ant venom and experience lethal allergic reactions. Very young or very old people and those with suppressed immune systems are most likely to react severely to their stings. But, even healthy individuals can experience a severe reaction such as anaphylactic shock from a multiple stinging incident.
There isn’t much you can do for fire ant stings, except watch for excessive swelling, itching or redness, or other symptoms like shortness of breath, thickening of the tongue, sweating, etc. that would indicate a severe systemic allergic reaction. If this happens, seek medical attention. Otherwise treat their stings as you would the stings of other insects and keep the affected spot clean to avoid a secondary infection.
Fire ants have been known to kill quail, deer, lizards, songbirds, horn toads, etc. so they can be a threat to pets, too. Today’s chemical methods of imported fire ant control provide only temporary suppression. There is hope that the newer biological control agents released in parts of the state will permanently reduce imported the fire ant population.
How can I tell the difference between fire ants and termites?
Although most ants are recognizable, some forms of winged ants are often confused with termites, especially during the termite swarming season. The front pair of wings on ants is larger than the hind pair, while the four wings of termites are approximately the same size. Ants have “elbowed” antennae and a “thin waist” (narrow between the thorax and first abdominal segments). In termites, the thorax and abdomen are broadly connected and their antennae are straight and hair-like.
Harvester ants are much larger than fire ants but they are sometimes confused with fire ants because of their color. They make large bare areas around their colony with a single entrance hole.
Leafcutter ants are also much larger than fire ants. They create a dense cluster of mounds, called a “town”, which are built-up at the colony’s center, and have many entrance holes over a very large area.
Carpenter ants are usually larger than most other house-infesting ants. They vary in color from a dull black or reddish yellow color to a combination of black and dull red or reddish orange. Carpenter ants tunnel into wood to form nest galleries. If they go unnoticed for several years, some species of carpenter ants may cause significant structural damage. In Texas, carpenter ant species are more of a nuisance when they forage indoors, often attracted to sweet foods. Species may nest in almost any crack and crevice and often occur in structural wood where water leaks or rot occurs. Outdoors, the ants use dead trees or tree limbs, stumps, logs or areas under stones as nesting sites. Once the carpenter ant nest has been located, control is relatively easy.
Because carpenter ants are classified as wood-destroying insects, however, they are reportable on real estate transactions and can affect the resale value of a home.
Carpenter ant control can be difficult because we have to locate and treat each nest. Carpenter ants make their homes in a variety of sites including solid wood, hollow core doors, window and door frames, hollow walls, insulation, cardboard boxes, etc. Although carpenter ants can bore into sound, dry wood, they prefer using existing cavities or excavating softer materials, especially near a moisture source.
Carpenter ant nests can be located by the presence of small piles of sawdust called “frass”. This consists of wood shavings or other material expelled from the ant’s nests, including tiny fragments of dead ants and other insects. The presence of frass is a good sign that you have a nest nearby.
Laundry piles are convenient places that provide lots of tunnels for the ants. They may be attracted to moisture, food residue, or oils on soiled clothing. Ants are usually found in utility rooms, bathrooms or near the water sources where they have access to the area from outside. When it floods they move into any good dark place, but in drought conditions they tend to move to moist areas.
DFW Best Pest Exterminators has the most cost-effective, environmentally sound ant management solution for each type of ant.