If you’re from the South, these little guys need no introduction. If not, don’t be deluded into believing they’re harmless They aren’t. These are red imported fire ants, the bane of North Carolina summers.
I can’t count how many times I stepped in fire ant mounds as a kid. Every summer, I found myself covered in ant bites from ankle to knee at least once. I wasn’t all that clumsy of a child either; it’s just that the suckers are everywhere east of the foothills.
That wasn’t always true, though. These fire ants aren’t native to the United States. They were accidentally introduced from South America through the Mobile, Alabama port in 1930. Less than 30 years later, the invaders crossed the North Carolina border into Brunswick County.
Fire ants thrive in our warm, humid climate and can live in various environments. They made quick work of spreading throughout the state. Today, they’re found in 75 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. With no natural predators in the US, it’s looking like they’re here to stay.
Unfortunately, the tiny demons wreak havoc everywhere they go. They’ll eat anything, which impacts everything from wildlife to crops. They’re even known to kill and eat small native animals. That’s no surprise for those who’ve been bitten by one.
Fire ant bites are intense, and the pain often lasts for hours. The ants swarm when their hills are disturbed, attacking like a well-organized militia. When this happens, hundreds of bites can occur.
That happened to Kodecker when she was about two. She fell into a fire ant hill as big as she was. The ants ate her up – and she had to be rushed to the ER. I remember speeding from Wilmington to Pender County to meet Daddy at the hospital. It was a blessing she got to come home that night.
I’ve had a healthy fear of fire ants since then. I give them a wide berth and pour boiling water on their hills when they pop up in the yard.
Anyone else wary of fire ants?