Summary: Fire ants have plagued homeowners, farmers, ranchers and others for decades due to their painful fire ant bites. Now the hated fire ant is facing a pest of its own.
Just the mention of fire ants can make the hair stand up on the necks of people who have felt the painful sting of fire ant bites. Red Imported Fire ants have plagued homeowners, farmers, ranchers and others for decades. Now the hated ants are facing a pest of their own.
With no natural predators to keep them in check, fire ants have spread across the U.S. Incredibly, their population in the U.S. is estimated to be ten times greater than that of their native South America. These massive fire ant colonies can be directly tied to six billion dollars in annual crop losses, equipment damages and the speeding up of soil erosion. And, let's not forget to mention human, pet and livestock vulnerability to the ant's stinging attacks.
***image2***On the positive side, fire ants eat just about anything and can reduce tick populations in pastures and yards. Also, the ants feed on boll weevils, caterpillars and sugarcane borers. In spite of this positive, fire ants are not native to many areas they now inhabit and people see them doing more harm than good.
With fire ants having been detected in 13 states and spreading as far northward Virginia, people are looking for the answer to the question of how to kill fire ants. There seems to be some encouraging news.
A virus that specifically attacks the red fire ant was discovered in 2002. Researchers found that a percentage of fire ants were dying due to the virus. Now, there are efforts being made to integrate the virus into ant baits as a tool for the control of these pests for use by pest control professionals.
Scientists are trying to achieve sustained control. Without the dozens of natural enemies the fire ant faces in its native South America, eradication of the fire ant is not going to happen. That's why researchers are hoping the virus will become a viable bio-pesticide to help keep fire ant populations under control.