Fire ants marching into county

Published 5:55 pm Thursday, December 31, 2020

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The red imported fire ant, commonly found in Virginia’s tidewater region, is making its way into Charlotte County, potentially creating a problem for producers and landowners.

“The first mound of fire ants were reported in the county in October,” Extension Agent Joanne Jones said. “Currently, they have all been in the Red Oak area located within roughly a five-mile radius of the Red Oak Post Office.”

According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), the ant is problematic due to the large mounds that it builds and the ant’s ability to sting or bite in large numbers.

“A major concern for livestock production is calves being born near mounds,” Jones said.

The red imported fire ants live in mounds. The mound is usually noticed prior to seeing the ant itself. The mound appearance is typically large, and dome shaped. The average size of a mound is 10 to 24 inches in diameter and 6 to 18 inches in height. However, mounds may be larger in clay soils, reaching 2 to 3 feet in height. The ants will feed on any plant or animal material. Because these ants are becoming such a problem, the VDACS is working with landowners to assist with mound treatment to help curtail the spread.

According to the VDACS, fire ant mounds are typically found in warm, sunny locations such as landscape beds, lawns, trees and shrubs, along sidewalk cracks and against buildings. If disturbed, the ants are generally aggressive and can inflict painful stings.

In 1989, the first fire ant infestation was detected in the commonwealth. To date, all fire ant infestations appear to have been introduced into Virginia on nursery stock or other plant products from infested areas or by natural spread from nearby infested areas.

If you believe you have located a red imported fire ant mound, contact the Charlotte County Extension Office at (434) 542-5884. The VDACS will determine if the mound is fire ants and will treat the mound for free. Please do not disturb the mound as this will cause the ants to move and make a new mound.