More fire ants are coming, says NC State entomologist

In Coastal Review Online

by

The impossible-to-eradicate, imported red fire ant is going to expand farther and crop up in higher concentrations in North Carolina.

This is primarily due to the fact that one type of social colony of these wildly unpopular insects, known for their painful sting and costly impact to the state’s nursery industry, is killing off another, according to Charles Apperson, a professor of entomology at N.C. State University’s Department of Entomology.

There are two types of fire ant social colonies – monogyne, single-queen colonies, and polygyne, multiple-queen colonies. It’s the polygyne colonies that have the upper hand, destroying single-queen colonies one mound at a time.

“It’s just an evolution of fire ant populations over time,” Apperson said. “They’re going to become more widespread and more problematic because you have more ants per acre than you do the single-queen colony.”

Single-queen colonies are territorial so they distance their mounds from one another. Multiple-queen colonies, on the other hand, work together to build a series of smaller mounds, each with their own queen.

Single-queen colonies will build about 25 mounds an acre. Multiple-queen colonies, which exchange food and workers, build smaller, interconnected mounds. They can build more than 100 mounds an acre, Apperson said.

“With a multiple-queen colony if you kill the queen in a mound they can readily replace that queen so they’re much more difficult to control,” he said.

The combination of wet and mild temperatures has not helped either.

During warm periods, ants take the opportunity to rebuild their mounds washed out by rain, which is why, if you live in one of the counties infested with the ants, you may have noticed mounds popping up along roadways in recent weeks.

Read the rest of the story in Coastal Review Online.

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