The environmental impact of fire ants can be seen everywhere. They build their nests and mounds in fields and open areas especially where cattle graze and on soil close to homes and other buildings. Let us take a look at the ecological impact of fire ants all over the world.
Fire ants, living close to homes and buildings, forage indoors for food and moisture sometimes. They can be a danger to sleeping or bedridden individuals and pets. Sometimes, they also eat the vegetable plants in home gardens. The worst damage and impact of fire ants on environment can be seen during hot, dry weather when they plague the flowerbeds in search of warmth and moisture. They will attack violently if disturbed and sting the intruder.
They are attracted to electrical equipment and are often found crawling into air conditioning units and the electrical wiring, which can result in shorting them out. The main cause of traffic light shorts in Texas is these fire ants, where more than US$140 million are lost every year in damage. However, there is some positive impact of fire ants on environment. Fire ants are naturally excellent predators and are good biological controls for pests like the sugarcane borer, the striped earwig, the rice stink bug, the boll weevil, aphids, the soybean looper, the hornfly, the cotton leafworm, and many other pests, which are harmful to crops. But in the process, they also kill some useful pollinators such as ground-nesting bee species. The fire ants are capable enough of virtually clearing an area of invertebrates, lizards, and ground-dwelling birds as they are overwhelming intruders.
Some serious impact of fire ants has been reported from Taiwan in recent years, where a few people have been reported to have succumbed to the fire ant stings. Currently there is a large campaign going on against the fire ants, which has been effective, but has not been able to get rid of them completely.
In China and Hong Kong too, there have been reports about the spread of fire ants in many provinces. Several ant-hills of Solenopsis invicta have been reported in these countries. Since 2005 newspapers in Philippines too have reported of the fire ants colonies spreading every year.
Australia too is not bereft of ecological impact of fire ants. Evidences suggest that the fire ants may have been present in Australia for more than seven years before their formal identification. Although their outbreak is limited to a small area of southeast Queensland in and around Brisbane, the potential social, economic, and ecological damage has driven the Australian government to act fast.
In US alone, around US $5 billion are spent every year on medical treatment, damage, and for controlling the infested areas by fire ants.
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