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Fire Ants and Pet Food

The red imported fire ant has no natural predators in the United States, and its population has grown unchecked throughout the country.

Since a cargo shipment from Brazil accidentally introduced the species to the United States via Mobile, Alabama, in the 1930s, the red imported fire ant has found the American South to be very hospitable. Red imported fire ants thrive in flat, sunny environments with dry and temperate climates. Fire ants’ large mounds help them regulate underground temperatures, protecting the queen and young ants from severe weather or climate changes. A fire ant colony typically houses 250,000 ants.

While red imported fire ants are not strictly carnivorous, they eat almost any protein material. For homeowners with pets, this ant has become a particular problem. Since many people put pet food and water outdoors for their pets, they unknowingly also provide food for foraging ants. Fire ants are attracted to the nutrients present in pet food. Once the ants locate a food source, they deposit a scent trail that leads other ants to the food. The ants will return to the area until the food has been consumed. Curious pets often provoke red imported fire ants, which have been known to react by stinging the pet. It is not uncommon for vetrinarians to treat house pets for fire ant stings, and, in some cases, fire ant attacks can prove fatal to small animals or those with hypersensitivity to the venom.

If you determine that you have a red imported fire ant infestation, pick up all uneaten pet food promptly and contact a pest control professional to treat the ant colonies.

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