Fire Ants Build Mounds

Some people sing about fire ants. Several clips of fire ant songs can be heard on the website Texas A&M's Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Program website   , but extension agent Chad Gulley isn't humming along. Prior to his Nacogdoches County assignment, he was studying for the state and the USDA ways to kill the stinging pests.    " See how aggressive they are, " points out Gulley after stirring a mound.

The red imported fire ant causes about six billion dollars in damage each year in the United States. Just over one billion dollars of that is in Texas alone. No wonder Texas A&M is aggressively researching ways to get rid of them.

While in Polk County gulley's focus was the Brazilian Fly.  It's a harmless looking insect, but the fire ant's worst enemy. An ant's head becomes an incubator for the fly. Gulley described, " He's kinda like a dive bomber. He zaps an egg in the back of that ant's head. That egg then goes through the pupation stage to a larvae stage and the head pops off."

No one said the insect kingdom was pleasant, but neither are severe fire ant stings that leave pustules and blisters. The victims can be baby birds, cattle and humans of all ages.   Every year around 14 million people across the Southeast United States are stung.

Professional exterminators know to very carefully apply pesticide when treating the mounds. Carra Liles advised,  " When applying your insecticide granules be sure and place them on the outside, exterior of the mound. Don't disturb the center of the mound. They'll go to the product."

Researchers want the same result with a virus they found that kills fire ants. They're looking for ways to put it into a pesticide. Until then the fire ant will march on.