Fire ant colony invades Suffolk

Published 8:08 pm Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Belmont Park neighborhood, located off Shoulders Hill Road, is a quiet group of houses clustered around a courtyard, complete with a colorful playground.

An aggressive foreign predator has invaded the community, though, threatening the peace and security that residents have become accustomed to.

A colony of red imported fire ants has been discovered, and Suffolk officials fear there may be more that have not yet been discovered.

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A resident found the ants’ mounds, and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services treated them. However, it’s possible there are more colonies in the area, according to a city press release.

Earlier this year, Virginia Beach treated eight of its public parks for fire ant infestations. The ants, which exhibit aggressive behavior and pack a painful and venomous sting, react with dangerous swarming attacks to any disturbance of their mounds. Their sting usually leaves a white pustule on the skin, and a small percentage of the population is allergic to it.

They are most commonly found in warm, sunny locations such as landscape beds, lawns, around trees and shrubs, along sidewalk cracks and against buildings. Mounds are typically a foot to two feet in diameter, and grow to about 18 inches high, although larger mounds are not uncommon.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (, red imported fire ants are native to South America. They were introduced to the United States in Alabama in the 1930s, when soil used for ships’ ballast was infested with them. Since then, the pests have spread up the Eastern seaboard and along the nation’s southern border.

Fire ants first arrived in Virginia in 1989, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Since then, infestations have been confirmed in about 20 localities.

To report a suspected red imported fire ant colony, call the Virginia Cooperative Extension office at 923-2050 or the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 804-786-3515.