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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Imported Fire Ants
USDA Agricultural Research Services Web site on area wide suppression of fire ants.

Imported fire ants

How they got here

Imported fire ants first came to the United States around 1930. Seventy years later there are five times more ants per acre here in the States than in their native land of South America. Natural enemies of the fire ants keep in check most of the ants in South America. But the fire ants that came to the States escaped their natural enemies and thrived in the southern landscape.
Image showing heavry concentration of imported fire ant mounds in pasture.

Images hiwing the present and potential ranges of imported fire ant infestation.

A crisis brews

Until now, the primary way to control fire ants has been to use insecticides. And the only way to maintain control has been to apply insecticides two to four times a year at a cost of at least $10 an acre for each treatment, Treating all infested land would cost $6 billion to $12 billion a year.

Pilot walking near his pesticide applicator spray plane.
Because of the expense and perceived hazard of insecticide treatments, most landowners do nothing. Uncontrolled, fire ants have become serious pests. They damage crops, livestock, and electronics and sting people. By killing wildlife and even endangered species, they upset the ecological balance of nature. Fire ant losses total almost $6 billion a year in urban and agricultural areas.

Pie chart representing total annual losses of $5 billion to households, business, schools, government and institutions. Pie chart representing total annual losses of $750 million to agriculture.

Areawide Suppression of Fire Ants main menu

Last Modified: 10/6/2015