The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta), or simply RIFA, is one of over 280 species in the widespread genus Solenopsis.

RIFA are more aggressive than most native ant species and have a painful sting. A person typically encounters them by inadvertently stepping into one of their mounds, which causes the ants to swarm up the person’s legs, attacking en masse. The ants respond to pheromones that are released by the first ant to attack. The ants then sting in concert, often inflicting death on smaller animals by overloading their immune systems.

Red imported fire ants are extremely resilient and have adapted to contend with both flooding and drought conditions. If the ants sense increased water levels in their nests, they will come together and form a huge ball or raft that is able to float on the water, with the workers on the outside and the queen inside.  Once the ball hits a tree or other stationary object, the ants swarm onto it and wait for the water levels to recede. To contend with drought conditions, their nest structure includes a network of underground foraging tunnels that extends down to the water table. Also, despite the fact that they do not hibernate during the winter, colonies can survive cold conditions as low as 16 °F (−9 °C).

Fire Ant cluster in water

Fire Ant mound

Uninvited picnic guest!!!!!

I don’t know whether you have ever experienced fire ants or not, but they are not lovable creatures.  Many times when you are aware of their presence (and attack), it’s a little late in the game.  Like maybe the bottom of the ninth inning, 2 outs, and a 3-2 count.  One ant does crawl onto your foot and sting you.  He will lead others onto your body and when he gets to your knee, he signals the last one to get on your foot, and then they all sting you at the same time.  Too late!  Ballgame over!

Once when I was playing a golf tournament, I had an experience with RIFAs that is truly unforgettable.  The competition was fierce and total concentration was called for.  I had it the ball into the rough up close to a tree trunk.  I had to get in a peculiar position to address the ball.  Once I had my stance just like a wanted and was concentrating on making a difficult shot, the RIFAs attacked me from my knee to my ankle, with a few inside my shoes.  In all my concentration on the golf shot that was needed, I had stepped on top of a fire ant hill.  You know the rest, except the very lively dance that I performed.  I have always loved to dance, especially with Pam, but believe me my fellow golfers witnessed some dance moves that were totally foreign to me.

Why am I writing about fire ants?  I have been putting out fire ant poison in my yard the last few weeks.  I will put poison on a hill following all the directions and the ants will disappear.  Then a few days later, a short distance from the old ant hill, another hill suddenly appears.  The new hills appear just about as fast as a host of ants will attack your body.  When I “googled” fire ants, I discovered how deep they dig tunnels during dry weather and it has really been dry this spring.  I know I will never rid my property of the fire ants but I would like to control them enough to just have a tie ballgame.

So what is good about fire ants? 

Fire ants are excellent natural predators and are biological controls for pests such as the sugarcane borer, the rice stink bug, the striped earwig, aphids, the boll weevil the soybean looper, the cotton leafworm, the hornfly, and many other pests harmful to crops. However, they also kill beneficial pollinators such as ground-nesting bee species. Seeds, fruits, leaves, roots, bark, nectar, sap, fungi, and carrion are all fire ant prey, and they are not shy from creating their own carrion either. They are proficient enough at overwhelming intruders that they can virtually clear an area of invertebrates, lizards, and ground-dwelling birds.

I am not bothered by many of the pests that the fire ants feed on or cause to leave the area but they do affect some of the vegetation around my yard.  I know that God has a purpose for each of us and all creatures, but sometimes I just don’t understand the purpose for some of those creatures.  I understand about the different Spiritual Gifts that God each of us.  I understand that God is in charge of all things in this world.  I also know that God’s Ways are different from the ways of the world.  When everything seems hopeless, due to the troubles in this nation (and world), it is necessary for us to not dwell on the troubles.  It becomes much more important each day to concentrate on the answer…our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

GOD IS STILL IN CHARGE.  Depend on it and keep the faith.


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