Heavy rainfall making fire ants surface and spread across the region

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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — If you spend a lot of time outside, you’ve likely noticed lots of ant mounds in recent weeks and there’s a reason.

Above average rainfall this summer across the Cape Fear region has the annoying insects coming up out of the ground.

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Brunswick County has the distinction of being the site of the first red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta), often referred to as a fire ant, which was first documented in North Carolina back in 1957.

“Fire ants are found in 75 of our 100 counties and could possibly be in more counties but simply haven’t been reported yet,” said Michael Waldvogel, an extension associate professor at NC State University.

When you see a fire ant mound on top of the ground, there’s much more you can’t see.

“A fire ant nest is like an iceberg, most of it is below the surface,” Waldvogel said. “Often they can extend two to three feet and in some cases going down as much as 10 feet, and that’s what makes it hard to control them.”

So what’s the best way to get rid of them in your yard or garden?

“I like using the bait to get the ants to kill themselves off,” he said. “Put the bait around the mound, you let them carry it back, they transfer it to other members of the mound including the queen and, eventually, it will take them out.”

Sometimes, it will take 2-3 weeks before the bait completely kills the ants and possibly as much as 8 weeks.

Avoid putting gasoline on the mound because that’s not good for the environment. Pesticides designed to treat them can be found in the garden center of most hardware or home improvement stores.

“Simply spraying the surface doesn’t have much effect,” Waldvogel said. “At this time of year, treat early in the morning or late afternoon/evening, that’s when more ants are up in the mound.”

If you apply a pesticide product, spread it around the mound and don’t disturb it.

Killing fire ants is something you need to get your neighbors on board with doing in their own yards.

“The more mounds you eliminate, the fewer ants there will be to send mounds to other locations,” he said. “One mound left undisturbed can spread to other locations for years.”

Click here for more information about the red imported fire ant and effective ways to treat them.