Fire Ants

Mobile, Alabama has the distinction of being the point of entry for the fire ants from South America. They either came aboard potted tropical plants or in ballast nests but they came and have conquered. I’m told that probably about 1920.

All of these years later, we still can’t get rid of this invasive pest. There are two kinds: red and black and they survive mostly in the south where the ground doesn’t freeze in the winter.

Our little family has lived in SC, NC, TX, MS, FL, AL. I grew up in Maryland where, as kids, we used to sit on the grass and play games; but living in the south my kids have never been able to do that. Instead, we find a table to sit at and play our games or just run around avoiding ant hills. Growing up surrounded by sand (at the beach) has helped my boys stay away from the ants, although some parks and playgrounds where they’ve mixed dirt and sand for some reason, or have placed sand over the dirt, you can find fireants. The beach is the best place to be able to run around barefoot or sit down and play.  But, sand has issues, too.  It sticks to you and sometimes my boys just don’t feel like being sandy. But the ants really can’t seem to dig and build in it so its a safe place to play.

As we’ve moved around we’ve encountered all types of soil which makes ant-spotting interesting. We’ve lived where, after a rain, ants pile their hills high along the highways and along the edge of the sidewalks. You always know where they are in that soil. Other places where the ground is harder or sandier or even made of clay, you need to be vigilant watching where you step. The hills don’t mound very high and you can miss a hill-spotting before the ants start attacking. In fact, in my yard today I noticed the mounds made by the tunneling moles (ugh, we have them) are higher than the two ant hills I found.

In South Carolina, since we didn’t want to use chemicals on our yard (a dog and 2 kids and chemicals don’t mix) our neighbors told us to pour grits on the ant hill.  We were told the grits would expand in the ants and kill them.  So, we did and watched to see how long it would take to go away.  Later that day we noticed another hill forming a few feet away made of grits.  We watched as the ants came out of a hole and placed the grits on the ground, making a new hill.  So much for that tip.  We also poured boiling water on the hills only to find out fire ants like the heat, that’s why they building hills along curbs and sidewalks which are typically hot during the day.  Chemicals are about the best way to get rid of them. 

Keep an eye out for ants; the sting is not pleasant.