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Our Times / Orange County Communities | COVERING NORTH
COAST, CENTRAL, AND NORTHWEST CITIES : STANTON

Fire Ants Are Found in 4 Places

Aide from Vector Control Agency says help from businesses and residents is needed to prevent spread.

March 17, 2000|JUDY SILBER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The red imported fire ant has established itself in at least four sites in Stanton, an Orange County Vector Control Agency representative told Tuesday night's City Council meeting.

If left unchecked, the ant could become a serious problem in Stanton and other Orange County cities, warned Dick Meyer, assistant manager of the agency.

Because of its prevalence in the Southwest, "the ant has changed lifestyles," impeding outdoor pastimes such as picnics and driving out native wildlife, Meyer said.

The ants were discovered on the properties of two businesses on Seaboard Circle, and one residence and one apartment building on Western Avenue.

When a red imported fire ant colony is disturbed, the ants pour out, stinging en masse. For those with insect allergies, the bites can be life-threatening.

In response to fire-ant colonies found more than two years ago in Orange County, the newly established Orange County Fire Ant Authority began poisoning mounds about a month ago with a chemical that sterilizes the queen ant and prevents larvae from reaching adulthood.

Meyer said residents have nothing to fear from the poison. Though highly toxic for ants, side-effects in people or animals occur only if consumed in large doses.

In three months, the Fire Ant Authority will return to treated sites and check the results. But authorities say they don't know whether they can eradicate the ant.

"No agency in the country has been able to control them," said Jon Miller, Orange County Fire Ant Authority public-outreach coordinator.

However, Miller said, Orange County's dry climate may give the county a better shot at eradication.

Originally a native of South America, the ant has adapted to wet climates, making its home in Orange County's irrigated parks, residential lawns and schools; it requires rainfall to spread.

Miller said the help of businesses and residents will be a key component to curbing infestation in Orange County.

"Only certain areas are accessible to us. Backyards are going to have to be the responsibility of citizens."

Residents can do a simple test for fire ants by putting out potato chips to lure the ants.

The ants can be identified by their dark red heads, dark brown rears and the size diversity among the worker ants.

Other ants have worker ants of all one size, Miller said.

Anyone who finds a fire ant should notify the Fire Ant Authority at (800) 491-1899. Further information about the ant can be found at http://www.ocfireant.com.

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Judy Silber can be reached at (714) 966-5988.

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