Santa Paula Times

Fire Ants found

June 09, 2000
Santa Paula News
They’re on the march and coming closer: the next add-on to the list of bugs to be avoided, the red-headed, black-bellied mean as hell fire ant, has been discovered in the San Fernando Valley and it’s just a matter of time before they’re discovered in Ventura County. Distinctive looking, fire ants have red-color heads and black abdomens, and are particularly aggressive.Two infestations of the fire ants were discovered last week in Chatsworth - an area close to the Ventura County line - and in Mission Hills. The colonies of ants may be as old as two years, according to Los Angeles County agricultural officials, who noted that the first discovery in the San Fernando Valley of the ant - this one solo - was in January in Van Nuys.Fire ants were first discovered in Los Angeles County in 1998; accidentally introduced into Mobile, Alabama, from South America more than 70 years ago, the ants now call 11 Southern states home.The ants are considered highly dangerous because of their fierce protection of their mounds; if disturbed, they swarm and sting whatever is handy. The ant mounds look like gopher holes, which gives an idea of just how large their colonies can be.Some people are allergic to the venom making fire ant stings potentially fatal: symptoms include headache, dizziness, swelling around the sting and shortness of breath.
According to the Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner, fire ants will continue their march and cross the county line, if they haven’t already. “We’ll find them eventually,” said Agricultural Commissioner Earl McPhail. “They’ll get here I’m sure, but the longer it takes the better off we’ll be. The sting can make you pretty sick and they’re relentless little critters.”If you see any red-headed ants or discover an ant mound resembling a gopher hole, call the Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office at 933-3165.