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Help! I’m on FIRE!!

If you’ve lived in Florida and not gotten attacked by fire ants yet, consider yourself very lucky. But don’t get too comfortable. An unsuspecting walk outdoors, a misplaced step from a car into a grassy parking space, or a comfy seat on the cool grass could result in a very painful, very quick, and very orchestrated attack. Imagine sitting there and you hear a battle bugle sound – ATTACK! It seems like every ant bites at once. OUCH! Fire ants swarm when they perceive their habitat is under siege. They anchor onto the skin, then sting repeatedly, injecting a toxin alkaloid venom called solenopsin. The resulting pustules that develop after the sting hurt and itch. 

Fire ants are an invasive species that live in huge colonies and are very difficult to get rid of.

The best defense is a good offense, which means, look before you step or sit. Fire ant mounds are very large and usually are bustling with activity.  If you have a fire ant infestation in your yard, it’s best to treat them with a baiting method. Our technicians can bait areas using environmentally sensitive products that the workers bring back to the queen. 

Even though fire ants don’t have very many natural enemies, we are seeing that big-headed ants have become worthy opponents and are beginning to win battles over fire ant mounds. Not because of fire-power (pun intended), but because of the sheer number of big-headed ants. They can overwhelm a fire ant colony simply because there are so many of them.  But then you have a big-headed ant infestation. That’s ok. We can treat them too!

Fun Fact: There is a biological control organism for fire ants – if you’re into that sort of thing. The decapitating fly, which has only recently been brought to the U.S. from their native South America where they are natural enemies of fire ants, attacks fire ant workers. The workers hide instead of feed, which of course, weakens the colony.  If a decapitating fly catches a fire ant, it lays eggs in the fire ant’s head. The eggs hatch and develop, the head falls off, adult flies emerge and attack other fire ants. Gross, but really cool when you think about it. You could say the decapitating flies have a head for battle strategy.

Scott Harding

Vice President Scott Harding is the co-owner of Tempco Pest Control, Inc. He is responsible for field operations, quality control and training. Scott studied history at Western Illinois University and has over 30 years of pest control experience. A proud veteran, he served in the SeaBees Naval Combat Construction Battalion followed by six years in the reserves. Scott holds Florida Certified Operators Licenses in Pest Control, Rodent Control, Lawn Care and Termite Control. A Florida resident since 1985, Scott hails from Illinois and is a die-hard Cubs and Bears fan. His interests include playing Roy Hobbs competitive baseball, fishing and golf.