Even its Latin name — solenopsis invicta — means “invincible.” The tiny red critters, originally from Brazil, are named because their bites can sting like fire.
The insects have been on the move lately because of recent soaking rains in the area, experts on the topic said Tuesday.
“Water pushes them to the surface because they don't want to be wet,” Smith County Agricultural Extension Agent Chad Gulley said.
Even though the ant mounds are not as visible during a hot dry summer, the ants are still around — they've just moved underground, Gulley said. Once the weather turns cooler and the moisture increases, the ants come to the surface, he said.
Forecasters are calling for a wetter and cooler winter than normal, but that still may not be enough to eliminate the ants from the landscape, a Texas A&M entomologist said.
“They survive well far north of us so Texas winters may not have much of an influence on next year's population,” Bastiaan “Bart” Drees, professor of entomology at the Texas Agrilife Extension Service, said.
“Should we see mild conditions of moderate temperatures and available moisture, fire ants would likely respond positively by increasing their population levels,” Drees said on Tuesday.
A representative from the National Weather Service in Shreveport said forecasts are on track to be cooler and wetter than normal this winter because the possible development of an El Nino pattern.
John Adams, of KYTX CBS 19, said forecasts call for near normal temperatures in East Texas.
Gulley recommends a method known as the “Texas Two-Step” for ridding someone's home and lawn of the pesky creatures. “First, broadcast the bait over the entire lawn, and then treat pop-up mounds as they occur,” he said.
Tony Busby, co-owner of RID-X Termite and Pest Control in Tyler, said once the ants in the yard get close to a house, they come inside. “Fire ants have deep nests,” Busby said.
He said his business has been getting about the same number of calls to treat fire ants this year as in previous years. Typically, someone will treat an ant mound and will see it disappear, only to re-appear a few feet away. Busby said what happens is that the ants communicate the danger, then grab the queen and eggs and move to a different mound.
He calls this method of treatment “chasing ants.”
A much more effective way to get rid of the insects is to use a liquid treatment over the entire lawn, Busby said. “There will be no escape for the ants and they will be gone within 24 hours,” he said.