The Grim Milestone of Blogs "I find the language and rhetoric coming from America too confrontational" - Prince Charles "Nuts" - Gen McAuliffe America: Saving idiots from themselves since WWI

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Florida tourist tips from a native, don't let our fauna eat you

Fire Ants are always setting up mounds in my back yard. Ralph Moore takes a dim view of them:
To look at a fire ant, it doesn't seem that scary. It's brown and small, but its bite is ten times bigger. What's worse-- and frequently dangerous-- is the ant's swarming habit. If you find a fire ant mound and brush a stick across its puckered top, thousands of angry ants immediately spill out, biting the air. The only defense is a fast retreat. Those who can't move quickly after inadvertently stepping on a mound -- toddlers, the elderly-- are quickly covered and stung to death. A single mound contains several hundred thousand ants.

While his final statement is true, the actual number of our children and parents consumed by fire ants is not high. Everyone gets bitten - did I mention a huge mound unloaded on me yesterday? - but I've never personally known anyone consumed by fire ants. Even a small child can squash them rubbing with enough vigor, which hundreds of them is sure to produce. Babies would be helpless.

There are fire ants which post guards, warrior ants, atop the plant stalks or long grass they build their nests around. If you disturb the nest, rest assured thousands of fire ants will be manning the towers in a second even if they aren't that particularly nasty kind.

I was playing frisbee golf at Turkey Lake Park in Orlando. A tourist from Europe met me at the first tee. We decided to play along more for someone to run for help if there was a rattlesnake bite than any issues of course crowding. This is frisbee golf after all.

Rattlesnakes, to their credit, won't eat you. Most people are bitten on their hands and arms after consuming alcohol.

Don't step on them and don't grab them by the tail like all the 'trained professionals' on television.

On another occasion I nearly stepped on a large Eastern diamondback rattlesnake at Turkey Lake Park on the ninth fairway. There were many downed limbs after a hurricane made it pretty windy and rainy. Word to the wise, pay attention when you walk fast.

My mind: "stick, stick, weird stick, SNAKE!" At that point I was committed to putting my right foot within a foot or so of its head.

It never raised to strike or rattled. After I skipped past like someone sneaking away in a cartoon, on tiptoes, I turned back once I got to ten feet or so into the clear. Without showing any aggression the rattler continued on its way, which was fine with me. The snake was over five feet long and looked like it had been eating well.

My newly-found European friend asked me about all the large sand mounds around the fifth hole. When I told him fire ants and that he should be careful not to step on the mounds, he said "why?"

As you've read, European conceptions of ants and a Floridian talking about ants must not produce the required survival reaction. I'm doing my public service now for any of you planning on visiting.

Fire Ants won't leave you alone. We are fighting for our property rights, children, the elderly, and small cute furry things. Read about their inflitration into every neighborhood.

The red fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, (invincible stick) live in and around us everywhere and particularly are fond of golf courses and gardens that get plenty of sun. These unwelcome residents came from South America and with the exception of humans have no natural enemies and this explains their ubiquitous presence now throughout most of the South and certainly in South Carolina. A survey conducted in just South Carolina revealed that in the 1990, physicians reported treating 5000 cases of imported fire ant stings on humans. This represented a 14-fold morbidity. In all, there were 27 hospitalizations, one death and 170 cases requiring imported fire ant desensitization by an allergy specialist. Undoubtedly with the growth in ant and human population since 1990 we are talking about a much higher incidence of stings. In fact, in infested areas like Charleston County it is estimated that half of the population will be stung by a fire ant each year.

"gardens that get plenty of sun"

So I'm in my back yard trying to kill this fire ant mound which has grown among my sarracenia plants in my bog garden. I've tried various types of chemical warfare. They seem to use fire ant poison as building material.

I have another approach which is more risky but works if you get lucky. I use a garden hose to flush away the top layers of the nest and some of the first wave of attackers and go after the mound (they dig down and build up) with a probe, hoping to nail the queen or destroy something important. The danger comes when they race up your probe and start biting and stinging your hand, which won't be long.

I needed to get in there and weed. This mound is a good meter across. Keep in mind the amount of underground activity which goes along with that.

So I hit it with water, some hedge clippers, more water, hedge clippers. I tried to let the mound settle down after that. I needed to weed on the other side of the garden about ten feet away. Well, I guess that's a fire ant rally point.

So now both hands, both feet, and the bottom half of my legs are covered in fire ant bites.

The tourist from Europe also asked me if he could swim in Turkey Lake over by some reeds near the course after we finished playing golf? I advised against it. When he heard how big they could get he made a sound like someone punched him in the chest (OUF!)

That would ruin your whole vacation.


Anonymous said...

I have had livestock killed by fire ants. A lot of times young lambs and calves will stomp their feet and jump around in the nest but not actually move away from the nest!

Anonymous said...

Fire ants = kerosene. Works every time. Oh, don't forget the lit match.


Anonymous said...

Oh. I forgot. I read an article about these critters that quoted professional exterminators. They use steam.

grayp (again)

Chip said...

I have used boiling water in the past. **Kills grass dead**

Since that time fire ants have always grown large nests around valuable plants of mine.

Make of that what you will.

They don't have to be giant ants to be creepy.

--Chip "Beagle"

Thanks for posting.

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