Blame it on the rain: Fire ant mounds are popping up

Posted at 6:49 PM, Oct 18, 2013

Virginia Beach, Va. - Fire ant mounds are taking over one Virginia Beach yard, and our recent rains have a lot to do with it.

"After a rain, those mounds sort of pop up and sort of become more noticeable," said Dr. Pete Schultz, an entomologist with Virginia Tech's Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

Dr. Schultz says all of the rain we've seen recently has likely caused fire ant colonies underground to appear above the ground. NewsChannel 3 counted more than ten mounds in the yard off of Indian River Road in Virginia Beach.

"Whether it's from the water saturating the soil, whether it's the ground [being] softer now and they can push it up, not sure why. But they're always much more noticeable after a rain," said Dr. Schultz.

However, after it rains isn't the only time you'll see fire ant mounds popping up. It also depends on the time of the year. Fire ants typically work their mounds between April and July and late September through October. That's the time when they can cause problems for anyone who comes close.

"If they feel their nest and the queen who's deep down underground is threatened, the soldiers will come roaring out and attack whatever's in the vicinity," said Dr. Schultz.

So NewsChannel 3 put a boot in one of the biggest mounds on the Virginia Beach property, and in just a matter of seconds, the fire ants were crawling all over it.

"They will both bite and sting. They will actually use their mouth parts to hold onto your skin as they're injecting the venom into you," said Dr. Schultz.

Virginia Beach and much of Hampton Roads are under a state fire ant quarantine, leaving it up to the property owner to take care of the ant problem. Dr. Schultz says while the rain has caused mounds to pop up, colder weather could stop the ants from spreading a bit.

"They will defend their nest very aggressively," said Dr. Schultz.