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IMPORTED FIREANT ALERT: Colony Spotted Along Cumberland

fireantWith recent identification of a Fire Ant colony along the Cumberland River, Tennessee Department of Agriculture officials are asking Cheatham residents to keep a watchful eye out for this unwanted pest

By Ronnie Barron: UT/TSU Extension Director

Recently the UT/TSU Cheatham County Extension office was contacted by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Division of Regulatory Services, regarding the possible presence of Imported Fire Ants in our area. This spring the agency was contacted by an alert homeowner along the Cumberland River who suspected this unwanted insect. TDA acted quickly to eradicate the colony and has asked us to keep a watchful eye out for this invasive and unwanted pest.

Although Cheatham County is not on the list of Tennessee counties which are under quarantine by the TDA, homeowners and landowners are asked to keep vigilant. According to TDA representatives, the colony was probably moved downstream from the flood of 2010. Other colonies have been positively identified in the past (mainly along the Cumberland or its tributaries), and have been dealt with in swift fashion by TDA inspectors.

Most of the Fire Ant quarantined areas in Tennessee have been located predominately to the south US Interstate 40. However, with the movement (primarily) of nursery stock, hay, equipment, and flood waters from areas where this pest has a significant presence, non- quarantined areas are constantly at risk.

The state of Tennessee has many different species of ants which are found in our lawns and fields each year. Most of these species are native to our area and do not pose a major threat. The great concern over the Imported Fire Ant is its aggressive behavior, painful and potentially dangerous sting, as well as its affect upon equipment, crops, wildlife, and domestic animals. Annual losses in the U.S. are estimated to reach nearly $2 billion.

Colonies of Fire Ants build mounds that can be up to 10 inches in height, 15 inches or more in diameter and can be up to 3 feet in depth. This characteristic is not typical of our native ants and tends to set it apart from other ant species.

If you happen to live or own property along the Cumberland or its tributaries, be sure and keep a watchful eye out for this unwanted and uninvited guest. The UT/TSU Extension office can help identify Fire Ants if you suspect that they have set up a colony on your property.

The University of Tennessee also has a very useful website, fireants.utk.edu/ , which can be very helpful in identifying and managing this pest.

For more information or assistance, feel free to contact the UT/TSU Cheatham County Extension office at 792-4420.

You may also contact Ronnie Barron by e-mail at rbarron@utk.edu

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