Fire ants on rise in Polk County

Published 3:09 pm Tuesday, October 28, 2008

John Vining of the N.C. Cooperative Extension office in Polk County says more rainfall recently has made the fire ants more noticeable. The rainfall has loosened the soil, allowing the ants to move more easily.

&dquo;The fire ant problem is pretty bad in Polk County. During the dry weather these insect pests went unnoticed,&dquo; says Vining. &dquo;After the rains of Hurricane Faye there have been fire ant mounds popping up all across the county. So far the only spot of the county we have not seen fire ants is in Saluda.&dquo;

Numerous fire ant mounds can be seen in areas around the county. Fire ants are typically more active in the fall and spring when temperatures are cooler, and many small colonies often appear in late fall. Many of the colonies will not survive the winter unless the weather is mild.

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The N.C. Department of Agriculture has been working to control the population of fire ants, particularly imported species. Fire ants require access to sun and open land, making pastures an ideal habitat for them. The fire ant mounds can interfere with the operation of machinery on farmland and impact livestock operations.

Because fire ants can be difficult to eradicate, N.C. State University&squo;s Department of Entomology says the goal should be to manage fire ants with a combination of chemical and non-chemical control tactics. Steps should be taken to manage them in areas where they pose the most immediate hazard to people, pets and livestock, and management options vary depending on the location of the fire ants.

For more information on methods of managing fire ants, visit the website