Red Imported Fire Ants March Through Southern U.S.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

An invasive species of ant known as the red imported fire ant (RIFA) is making its way across the Southern U.S., raising concern among residents in Florida, California and every southern state in between. RIFAs are aggressive and are known to swarm and sting humans and animals when their mound-like nests are disturbed. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) encourages people to use caution should they encounter RIFAs in their homes or on their properties.

RIFAs were first found in Alabama in 1930, after they were brought into the country on cargo ships arriving from their native South America. Without natural predators in the U.S., the invasive species has thrived and expanded into at least 14 southern states. The small, reddish brown ants are often found in landscaped areas, garages and near structural foundations. A single colony can contain 250,000 ants.

"Red imported fire ants are just one of more than 700 ant species found in the U.S., but are one of the most dangerous," says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the NPMA. "Their painful sting can cause blisters of white pustules, infections and severe allergic reactions. Due to these health risks, people should not attempt to control an infestation on their own. Instead, contact a licensed pest professional if signs of a red imported fire ant colony are found near your home."

The NPMA recommends following these tips to protect your family from red imported fire ants:

  • Seal cracks and holes around your home.
  • Wear protective, closed-toe shoes and long pants when in outdoors areas where fire ants may be present.
  • Frequently inspect your property for signs of an infestation. Look for mound-like nests, paying special attention to yards and landscaped areas, patios, sidewalks, compost piles, under trees and around electrical equipment.
  • If a nest is found, do not disturb it. Contact a pest professional.

For more information on RIFAs, or to find a pest professional, visit www.pestworld.org.

The NPMA, a non-profit organization with more than 7,000 members, was established in 1933 to support the pest management industry's commitment to the protection of public health, food and property.

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