Back in 2004 my husband got a job in Florida, so we all moved there from Ohio. Within a month of living in our new home our two year old daughter discovered a mound of dirt in our backyard. Within seconds of finding and touching it, she was covered in fire ants that bit her on the legs that caused her intense pain. That was our first introduction to Florida’s fire ants.
Since that time I have learned all I could about fire ants. What I learned is that fire ants are not native to the United States. They were accidentally brought to the United States in 1929 on a cargo ship carrying soil from South America. Since they have no natural predators here in the US, the fire ants has exploded. They are incredibly aggressive and dangerous.
By now you are probably wondering how to spot a fire ant nest, or the ant itself. It’s actually pretty easy to see where the fire ants are living if you know where to look, which is down. When I am outside walking on grass or dirt, I watch my feet as I walk. What I look for and avoid are any dirt hills. The hills can be as small as an inch or as large and tall as 15 inches. The dirt for these hills has a grainy look to it that I have come to learn.
If you are unsure if a dirt mound is a fire ant nest, there is a very easy way to find out. Take a long stick and poke the nest. If fire ants live there, they will immediately swarm out of the nest and onto the stick. If the stick was your hand, you would get bit many times over.
As for the ants themselves, I don’t really know what they look like specifically because I never see them unless their nests have been disturbed. When that happens it is best to get as far from the fire ants as possible. From what I can tell, though, they look like a typical ant. They are neither excessively large or small. And, no, they are not red as their name might imply.
The reason fire ants are called “fire” ants is because of their bite. Their bites burn like fire, or so I’ve been told. I’ve never been bitten but I know plenty of people who have, including my daughter. Her legs were covered in little red welts. Apparently, fire ant bites cause small, painful welts that can sometimes scar. In my daughter’s case I counted over 40 bites at the time of the incident. She is now 10 and several of the bites turned into scars that can still be seen.
The best way to treat fire ant bites is with a sting and bit product called Mitigator. Apply it as soon as a bite occurs. And if you find an ant hill, you can either buy a product called Amdro, or call your exterminator. I have found that exterminators are far more successfull at killing fire ant colonies than over-the-counter products are.