One of the banes of the Greater Jacksonville gardener is the red fire ant.
Move around their enormous sandy mounds, and they’ll chase you down.
Run the lawn mower over a mound, you know, to get even with the ants, and you’ll discover that they outnumber you many thousands to one.
An average colony houses between 100,000 and 500,000 ants.
It’s time to fight fire with fire
Fond of sunshine and freshly turned soil, RIFA just love to park their giant ant hills in your front yard.
And they don’t like being disturbed.
Here’s how fire ants decide to sting
When they’re irked, which is most of the time, worker ants stampede to the entrances of the mound and storm the nearest interfering mammal.
If you’re working in the yard, this is you.
Because ants communicate using chemical signals, they can coordinate their attacks and sting in unison.
As they run up your arms and legs.
The harder you slap, the more ants you call and the more times you get stung.
Yep, the ants eat you alive on purpose.
Fire ant venom is necrotoxic
RIFA venom will eat the flesh off your bones.
Approximately 95% of the venom is composed of alkaloids which cause the both pain and the pussy white sore where you can see the ants’ fang marks.
In people who are extremely sensitive, even a few stings can bring on anaphylactic shock.
You should check with your doctor before you decide to work in the garden in the event that you get swarmed.
Getting rid of RIFA
Your Examiner has to be honest – she’s always just set the mound on fire with some charcoal starter and a wooden kitchen match.
Some people swear by bleach. Others swear that soaking the mound with white vinegar will kill the colony. Still others claim that washing out the mound with water from the hose run them off.
Of course there are injectable and other pesticides, but if you have pets and kids, you have to be so very careful about toxicity.
While Your Examiner swears by burning, it’s seldom that she’s won outright by killing the colony’s queen.
And, if you’re aggressive enough, sometimes by just mowing down the mound several times, RIFA takes the hint and moves to the next-door neighbor’s yard.
Not ideal, but at least it’s safe to go out in the yard again.
Death to all fire ants!
PS: If you’re going burn the ants out and retake your yard, do it now that we’ve had some rain. Later in the summer you risk violating burn bans and maybe torching your own house.
And what’s more green than a good burning, eh? – GJE
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OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years and knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design. Contact:firstname.lastname@example.org