ORANGE COUNTY, FL - We aren’t the only ones enjoying a warmer than usual winter. Fire ants are too. An unseasonably warm winter is keeping the insects active.
“It could be a good year for fire ants and that means a bad year for people,” said Joshua King, an ant biologist at the University of Central Florida. “We’ve had no nights below freezing or near freezing and it’s also a little bit wetter, so those or favorable conditions for the fire ants to have a really good spring and summer.”
That means the venomous ant colonies are growing larger than usual, multiplying right under our feet.
“Another lovely Florida bug,” said Michelle Vaartjes, a resident of Orange County.
The most active months are on the horizon, according to King, who is sending out a warning about the potential for more fire ants than usual.
“More stung ankles and more concerns about fire ants in the yard,” he said.
“So, I’m just gonna stay in the house,” said Ashley Sanders, Orange County resident.
“Oh, it’s gonna be pretty bad,” said Isaac Brown, a specialist with Truly Nolen Pest Control.
Brown is recommending people cover up when outdoors.
“When you’re working in the yard, always wear gloves, long sleeves, pants, boots or shoes, no opened toed shoes,” said Brown.
You don’t want your bare hand or foot touching a mound filled with aggressive ants. If you see a mound, it's best to stay away.
“I run from them when I see them,” said Sanders.
In the event that you do get bitten by one of these ants, the best thing to do is ice the area, elevate it to reduce swelling and take an antihistamine to help the itching.
Fire ant colonies can be killed by using a store-bought pesticide or having a pest control company do it for you.