Most everyone in these parts has come in contact with fire ants in the worst way -- getting bitten.
Everywhere you look, there are fire ant mounds ... by the road side, in the fields and in my yard. And after recent big rains, even more ant mounds are popping up.
These feisty insects originally from South America thrive in our warm and humid climate. Supposedly, they came to America 90 years ago through Mobile, Ala., on shipping crates. Since then, they've spread into 15 states including all of the ArkLaTex.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, more that $5 billion is spent annually for medical treatment and damage control from fire ants. Nearly three quarters of a billion goes to agriculture losses.
In fact, small animals don't stand a chance when they come in contact with fire ants. You certainly want to keep your pets away from the mounds.
So what can you do to get rid of them? Horticulturist Patrick Dickinson with the Texas A&M Agrilife research center gave us some advice.
First, it seems like when I mow over a mound, it doesn't go away; it just gets bigger!
Dickinson said: "Destroying the mounds just sends the ants into building mode, which means they can build back bigger and stronger."
With so many fire ant mounds in my yard, should I just buy ant killer and apply it with a broadcast spreader?
"I don't recommend broadcasts that you put across all of your landscape because a lot of that chemical that's in that pesticide that's not being utilized gets washed off into our storm drains," Dickinson said.
Dickinson suggests spot treating each mound. Is now a good time?
"I learned a trick many years ago from an entomologist to know when the ants are building and when they are feeding. If you take something like a potato chip, and you set it on top of that ant mound, and if the ants move it off the ant mound, that means they are building and have no interest in feeding whatsoever. But, if they break it up and try to take it down in the mound, that means they are in feeding mode or storing mode. And that's a great time to use fire ant bait. Something you sprinkle in granular around the mound to allow those ants to go out and bring that food back into the mound and feed the rest of the mound and kill the mound from the inside," Dickinson said.
So, I attempted feeding the fire ants some junk food.
I don't eat a lot of potato chips, but if I do, it's usually the barbecue kind. So, I'll save those for myself.
I gave the plain ones a try for the old fire ants. Will see what happens Go get 'em guys.
And the end result: Well, it looks like the ants took the bait. In other words, they started eating the potato chips. Well, I did too ... I got hungry working on those ants. Now, it looks like a lot of spot treating with all the fire ant mounds. Perhaps you'll have to do the same thing too.