SYLACAUGA, Ala. – Torrential rainfall has caused more problems than flooding and storm damage throughout Alabama in the last few weeks.

If you look in your front or backyard you will likely spot at least one large mound of ants which was not present in weeks prior. Fire ants, scientifically known as Solenopsis mandibularis, are becoming a bigger problem for residents of Alabama.

Red fire ants are an invasive species of ant that bite as well as sting. These ants are not native to the United States and are believed to have been imported from South America in the 1930s.

As Kathy Flanders, an entomology professor from Auburn University explained, the ant colonies are always there, but the rain causes them to build above ground. Fire ants generally burrow underground, where they construct their complex systems of tunnels which they reside within. However, when the underground soil gets too wet, the fire ants begin to build a colony above ground, as an extension of their below ground tunnels. “When it gets wet down below, they just build their house further up,” stated Dr. Flanders.

There are many problems that arise from these superterranean colonies. For example, many people are prone to step into an ant bed, not seeing it. These instances can be extremely painful and dangerous, due to health concerns, such as allergies.

However, there are steps that you can take to reduce the threat of fire ants.

  • If you are aware of a fire ant bed near you, watch your step and be mindful of your distance from the bed.
  • If you are bitten by fire ants, get them off as quickly as possible, as they can cause serious pain.
  • If bitten, take an antihistamine.
  • Apply anti-itch cream, salt, or a triple-antibiotic cream.

There are also many ways to get rid of a fire ant bed. Fire ants are eusocial burrowing insects, meaning they have a queen. “To kill the colony, you need to kill the queen,” Dr. Flanders explained.

To do this, there are many methods. For example, liquid insecticide can be used to treat fire ant beds. However, a large volume must be used to eradicate the colony. Alternatively, fire ant bait can be used to get within the colony and exterminate.

All in all, fire ants are a painful cost for living in the south. However, they are forever going to be a part of life in the south.

The mounds may continue to grow as rain is expected throughout the week. weather projects a chance of rain Monday night through Sun., June 18.

Max Cleveland for | © 2017, City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.


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