European Fire Ant

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Overview

The invasive European fire ant Myrmica rubra is present along the northeast coast of North America. For over 100 years this ant has been reported from the Boston area but in recent years it has spread up the coast to Bar Harbour Maine where it has become a nusience. The venom from the sting causes temporary mild pain but the number of stings from a colony of these ants can be more disconcerting.

Identification

European fire ants are a shiny red in color and have petiole and a postpetiole (two nodes) when viewed with a 10x hand lens. These small ants often forage in large numbers from a series of closely spaced related colonies.

Biology

European fire ants are unusual in that queens do not fly and mate with winged males as do most other ants. Instead queens mate with winged males in their nest, loose their wings and walk a short distance to begin a new nest along with a group of workers from the same nest. This budding of colonies results in a dense population of ants and will out-compete other species of ants for food. The result is a back yard with tens of thousands of European fire ants making gardening difficult and making a play ground unpleasent to occupy.

Control

European fire ant workers recruit quickly to food sources and are thus highly vulnerable to elimination by baits.

It is not that important to locate the European fire ant nest since it is unlikely that these ants are damaging a structure in any way. Baits are very effective when fresh and properly placed, and are generally preferable to contact insecticides in most situations. Permanent solutions to large European fire ant infestations require the placement of many bait stations with enough bait to last for several weeks. Look for baits containing toxicants that are slow acting and allow time for the bait to be spread throughout the colony and especially to the queen.

Click to see some ant baits

Take the time to check on the bait to see if the ants are feeding. A circle of ants feeding together at a single bait station is a good sign. Do not place out large quantities of bait in a single location or the ants may try to bury the bait without feeding on it. Within one to two weeks all signs of ant activity should cease.

PROFESSIONAL PEST CONTROL SERVICES

If you prefer to use a pest control vendor, then the following guidelines should help you choose a reputable firm.

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