Impact On People And The Environment

Imported fire ants arrived in the United States without their native parasites and predators. In addition, few native ant species are able to compete with them. When fire ants encounter other ant species they vibrate their gasters (abdomens) and protruded stingers, spraying their venom and chasing away most other ants. They can displace native

FIGURE 1 A child's arm showing many pustules after numerous fire ant stings. (Photograph courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.)

ant species and quickly become the dominant ant species and significant pests. Fire ants will attack newly hatched birds both on the ground and in trees. Fawns and calves can be stung in their eyes and blinded if they are dropped on fire ant mounds. Soft plant tissue, such as okra, can be destroyed. Ants in mounds at the bases of trees can eventually girdle and kill trees. The sick and elderly, pets and children in backyards, campers, and picnickers, all can become victims of fire ant stings (Fig. 1). One oddity about fire ants is their evident attraction to electrical fields. They frequently enter electrical boxes such as outside air conditioners, traffic boxes, and lights, where they chew wires and short out the circuits.

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