Sunday, April 17, 2011

Fire Ants!

The other day I was out in the woods and I heard a rustling in the leaves.  I went to investigate, thinking a small animal was walking on the crisp leaves making the crunching sound.  But I found nothing, just a crunching sound.  Then, to my horror, I realized fire ants were climbing up my legs! I was standing near a fire ant mound!!!  I had never seen fire ants before and didn't actually know what type of ants they were at this time.

I quickly left the area and brushed all the ants off my legs and feet with sticks.  They were not biting me, just walking on me.  Luckily I was wearing long pants.  I went home and returned later after doing some online ant research with backup - Randy came with me to see the fire ants.  And this time I brought my camera.

The ants were all over some leaves in the woods and they were walking on an old piece of metal.  This is in an area where several pieces of metal were dumped many years ago.  Randy is going to pull all this metal up out of the ground and take it to a metal facility where he will get paid for it.

The ants were everywhere, and they all were working.  They were all carrying sticks and leaves and things, and they all were heading underneath this piece of metal.  I assumed at this time that the crunching sound was caused by so many hundreds of thousands of ants walking on crisp leaves.  Randy, being the man that he is, just had to pull up the metal to see what was underneath. 

And it was a horrible sight.  There were millions of fire ants.  The crunching sound was super loud now.  Maybe the crunching was caused by the irritated ants moving their horrible pinchers?  All the red/brown color in the below photos is ants.  It is not dirt.  The ants went crazy when Randy moved the metal covering their home.  They started swarming, and we quickly had to run away, as they started climbing up our legs and were biting and stinging our shoes and pants in a frenzy.

Here's some information from Wikipedia on fire ants:

A typical fire ant colony produces large mounds in open areas, and feeds mostly on young plants, seeds, and crickets. Fire ants often attack small animals and can kill them. Unlike many other ants, which bite and then spray acid on the wound, fire ants bite only to get a grip and then sting (from the abdomen) and inject a toxic alkaloid venom called solenopsin, a compound from the class of piperidines. For humans, this is a painful sting, a sensation similar to what one feels when burned by fire -hence the name fire ant - and the after effects of the sting can be deadly to sensitive individuals. The venom is both insecticidal and antibiotic.
Fire ants nest in the soil.  Usually the nest will not be visible as it will be built under objects such as timber, logs, rocks, pavers, bricks, etc. If there is no cover for nesting, dome-shaped mounds will be constructed, but this is usually only found in open spaces such as fields, parks and lawns. These mounds can reach heights of 40 cm (15.7 in). The mounds that the fire ants live in can also be as deep as five feet.

Colonies are founded by small groups of queens or single queens. Even if only one queen survives, within a month or so the colony can expand to thousands of individuals. Some colonies may have multiple queens per nest.


Country Girl said...

Ewww! I hope these are far away from your house! I got stung by a fire ant one time at a rest stop while were traveling. It bit my toe and yes, they do sting! Ouch!! Stay away from them!!

Lisa said...

I would be freaking out! I guess it's really hard to get rid of them.

Good luck

Chai Chai said...

I am surprised that the fire ants have advanced this far north. The local County Extension Office may be interested in your discovery and help in their eradication.

Ronna said...

Thanks for sharing this. I've always wondered what fire ants were exactly. They look pretty darn scary. Ouch!

Knatolee said...

Ow, nasty!! I don't think we have those little buggers here. But your post was fascinating. I want to learn more about ants. I think their lives are as interesting as those of honeybees!

Farm Girl said...

Are you going to try and get rid of them? How do you do that do you know? Did you have any ill effects from getting stung?
I have never saw them before. I know we have some that look like that but we had these ants come in from who knows where that just destroyed the fire ants. Now we have these ants that are little black things that like things that have wiring in them and they want to live in the house.

Dog Trot Farm said...

I first encountered fire ants while visiting the south and quickly learned to stay away!!!! Hope they didn't follow you home LOL Happy Spring to you!

Terry said...

Holy cow!

Danni said...

Oh, eeeeeek! It's times like these that I'm glad I live in Oregon where very few things want to hurt or kill us. lol
I encountered fire ants in Texas when my son and I went on a Habitat for Humanity trip. Until that moment, I had no idea there was anything even called a fire ant, so you can imagine my surprise. Ugh.
Those pictures of yours gave me the shivers.

Karen Anne said...

Criminey. I suspect as it gets warmer overall, they will be moving further north in general.

Razzberry Corner said...

Barb- You got bit at a rest stop? ouch! Did it feel like fire?

Lisa - Thanks for the luck! We may need it!

Chai Chai - I researched fire ants and learned they came from the south. They have reached Maryland already, and have progressed nothward. Randy says that we have alot of them on the property, he's seen them elsewhere. This was just the first fire ant mound that I found.

Ronna - Yeah, I didn't know about them before this, either! I've learned a lot since I've moved here.

Nat - I've always loved ants ever since I was just a little kid and had an ant farm. Fascinating. My mom told me the ants from my ant farm escaped into the house, I didn't realize that's what happened to them!

Farm Girl - I guess we should try to get rid of them, I didn't think about it... Normally I don't kill things that are living out by themselves in the woods if they don't bother me. If they were near my house, that'd be different. If I had ants in my house, they'd have to go. Because we have a 200-yr old farm house it has lots of cracks and gets lots of bugs. We have to get exterminated every year, and we still gets so many bugs in the house that I can't stand it. I think I'll notify the local dept of Natural Resources or some agency that tracks fire ants, they may want to know about them, and they help us to eradicate them.

Julie - I don't think they followed me home. They were pretty upset that Randy destroyed their home. They probably rebuilt the ant home and re-inforced it! Spring is the time for bugs!

Danni - The ants gave me the creeps. I was itching for hours afterwards, just thinking about them! there was just too many, and they were mean!!!

Karen Anne- I bet you're right, they will be moving further north.


Ken and Mary of Fancy Fibers Farm said...

Oh my! I'm sorry y'all have been inflicted with them now. We have a plague of them here in N. Texas and they can indeed be deadly. I've been bitten by them many times and the bites are painful and annoying. Some are more susceptible to their ill effects than others. Like my Wife. She was attacked by them once while standing on the compost pile. Funny thing though they don't seem to bother the hens. I've seen them crawling all over their legs with no effect. We lost a bunny once, who was swarmed by them in his cage. A lot of time and money is spent trying to eradicate them. Unfortunately tons of horrible and toxic chemicals are dumped around. There are some good organic treatments, but they tend to be shortlasting. I've had some luck with diatomaceous earth (i.e., until it rains) Anyway, be careful around them and keep a look out when you come in contact with the dirt, as their mounds don't generally tend to be as big as the one you discovered and just a small number may crawl on to you.

Chai Chai said...

Lynn, Don't feel bad about getting rid of them. Fire ants are not indigenous to North America, they are an invasive species from South America and a deadly problem.

Robin J. said...

Wow that would really gross me out.