Fire ants aren’t native to North America. Chances are they arrived in the U.S. in nursery stock (trees, etc.), in the 40’s and 50’s.
And, while early on the U.S. government hit the little guys with heavy duty chemicals in a number of eradication campaigns, all that was ultimately accomplished was widespread damage to birds and other wildlife in and near the treated areas. Meanwhile, fire ants continue to thrive. Indeed, the eradication efforts might’ve even aided the insects in their expansion into new territories.
Tomorrow (Saturday) morning, members of our Olli class are heading to a location our instructor, Dr. Walter Tschinkel, calls “ant heaven.” If conditions are right we’ll attempt to make a cast of an ant nest.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having mixed feelings about pouring molten aluminum into a colony of ants. It won’t break my heart if we don’t get to do the casting. I guess I’m an old softie. Sure hope the fire ants remember that next time I accidentally blunder into one of their mounds.
(That’s not my foot pictured below, by the way, but I’ve endured fire ant bites, and they are extremely painful.)