Ranger Nick: Why So Many Ant Mounds Right Now?

Ranger Nick: Why So Many Ant Mounds Right Now?


[Upbeat Music]
[Dr. Nick Fuhrman/UGA Professor, “Ranger Nick”] Well as we start this new year off, maybe
the holidays have you driving around maybe across the interstate looking out across some
farm pastures and seeing what look like little mounds of soil, maybe fire ant mounds, and
it had you wondering, “Why am I seeing more of them right now? What is the deal with that?” I thought I’d explore that with you this month
and introduce you to somebody who knows quite a bit about this, and that’s Dr. Will Hudson. Dr. Hudson, so nice to meet you. [Dr. Hudson]
Good to see you Nick [Ranger Nick]
I appreciate you spending some time with us today. I want to talk about fire ants, and I want
to talk specifically about a particular mound that we’re standing in front of today. I often see that maybe after a rain at night
or after the temperatures have been maybe a little cooler, I’ll walk out in my yard
and find fire ant mounds that were not there a day or two ago, and I think that maybe I’m
just seeing things. What is the deal with that? Why are we seeing more of those like this
one after a rain at night, after a cooler night? Why is that? [Dr. Will Hudson/UGA Professor of Entomology]
Well, particularly if the conditions have been real hot and dry before that, the rain
provides the ants with the perfect conditions to rebuild their mound. The colony’s always been there, well not always,
but it was there before. [Ranger Nick]
Oh, okay. [Dr. Hudson]
The dirt that you see suddenly pop up is just the dirt that they moved out of the tunnels
and the chambers that are underground where they live, and that’s why suddenly they have
a mound built that wasn’t apparent to you before. The colony itself has been there for months. [Ranger Nick]
Under the soil. [Dr. Hudson]
Under the soil. [Ranger Nick]
I can’t see them, okay. [Dr. Hudson]
They had a mound, but then either they got rained on, or it got stepped on, or it got
so dry that the soil wouldn’t hold its structure, and as soon as the soil conditions are right
they can build that mound back up. [Ranger Nick]
Interesting. And sometimes in South Georgia or the southeast
where there’s more sandy soils, maybe those mounds aren’t as high I guess because the
clumping ability of that soil is not there. [Dr. Hudson]
Right, you can pile clay up higher than you can pile sand. [Ranger Nick]
Yeah. [Dr. Hudson]
That’s the bottom line on that. [Ranger Nick]
Now let’s look at, if you don’t mind, let’s look at this one together. And I just happen to have my son’s little
shovel with me today. Here’s this mound. I’m noticing in this mound all of these little
particles of sand and clay are the same size. You’re saying, thinking to us, that they are
pushing these particles up out of the ground after it rains. They’re cleaning out what has washed down. Is that what you’re saying? [Dr. Hudson]
Right, and they’re not pushing, they’re carrying them one at a time in their jaws. They’ve got no other, they’ve got no pockets,
so they’re carrying them one at a time up there. [Ranger Nick]
Yeah and this, and I can kind of see some holes in there, and I just kind of want to
dig in and see what … and look at this, look at what we’re able to see with these
smaller holes and these tunnels. Now these guys must be down low because it’s
been cooler at night, and they’re down low getting warm. Is that what you’re saying? [Dr. Hudson]
Right, they’ll be up at the top of the mound. If it were a bright, sunny day today they
would probably be up there basking not on the outside but just inside. You can see the tunnels, all of these right
in here are places where they can come up. As the sun warms the soil, they warm up too
because they’re cold blooded. They’re trying to get to a place where the
temperature is most comfortable for them. [Ranger Nick]
Which that’s so interesting, and that dynamic of those ants under the ground, that’s what
I want to talk with you about next is going and looking at the culture of these ants. And I promise I won’t put my hand in there,
but I do want to kind of move some things around with you and see some of those areas
of work. So let’s go there next. [Ranger Nick]
Okay, so we’ve had a cooler night. We’ve had a rainy night. The mound is now showing up outside of the
ground, and I’m looking at this. And Dr. Hudson, we’re looking at this together,
I’m going to just kind of dig into this a little. Before I disturb it too much … Oh my gosh,
and the beautiful caverns. First of all, these little guys with wings,
are they ants? I’ve never seen an ant with wings. [Dr. Hudson]
Well yes. They are ants. Those are the ones that are the, what we call
reproductives. That’s the males and females that will mate. Then the new queens will start the next colony. [Ranger Nick]
Wow, so and they’re mating, but they have to fly to mate? I mean, that’s why they have the wings? [Dr. Hudson]
They fly up into the air. If you see it, it’s usually late in the afternoon,
it looks like a little plume of smoke coming up. [Ranger Nick]
Wow, okay. [Dr. Hudson]
And they mate in the air, and they fall back to the ground. Males die. [Ranger Nick]
Okay [Dr. Hudson]
The females lose their wings and go into the ground and create a small chamber, start laying
eggs, and that becomes the next colony. [Ranger Nick]
Wow, okay. [Dr. Hudson]
That why I say if you’re talking about fire ants, you need to think of it as a colony
not as individual ants. [Ranger Nick]
Interesting. So now okay, so I’m looking at this, and I
know we’re looking up close on the camera too. So we’ve got the ones with wings which we
now know are reproductive ants, but there’s other ones that are bigger, and I see one
moving a little granule of soil. Bigger ones and then there’s smaller ones. Is that an age difference, or do they have
different hierarchy in their family there, their colony? [Dr. Hudson]
Ants as all insects, once they become adults they don’t grow anymore. Their skeleton is on the outside so they can’t
grow anymore, so. [Ranger Nick]
I’ve got to do this. Sorry, I just have to look in here. I have to see what’s going on. [Dr. Hudson]
No, that’s fine. [Ranger Nick]
Look at this. Look at that. [Dr. Hudson]
There are different sizes of individuals. Some of that is related to the jobs that they
do in the colony, and some of it is just variation in size just as people are different sizes. [Nick]
Okay [Dr. Hudson]
So you get some variation that way. [Ranger Nick]
Interesting. Now I would have loved to have talked to some
of these ants today, Dr. Hudson, to find out their perspective on what they think of us
humans disturbing their mounds and everything, but I’ve got to tell you. With a little boy at home and a little girl
at home as well that will soon be walking, we go out in the yard, and we have a thing
of that ant spray that we buy from the local hardware store. Miles and I spray that stuff all over the
mound, and we say, “We have killed the ants.” Then a couple of days later we see them again. What are we doing wrong? [Dr. Hudson]
Well, you saw the structure of the mound. It goes a long way down into the dirt, and
if all you do is spray the surface you’re not beginning to get down to the area where
the money is. [Ranger Nick]
Yeah, yeah. [Dr. Hudson]
Which is you’ve got to kill the queen. If you don’t affect the queen, you can’t control
the colony. So you’ve got to put that insecticide, if
you’re going to treat an individual mound, you have to put it in enough water that it
carries the insecticide all the way down to the bottom of the mound where the queen is. [Ranger Nick]
And how much water are we talking? [Dr. Hudson]
At least a gallon of water per average size mound. [Ranger Nick]
Wow, okay. [Dr. Hudson]
Because there’s a lot of volume of soil in there, and you’ve got to get all the way down
through it. [Ranger Nick]
Okay. Now what if I’ve got a bigger area of land
I’m going to tackle? Maybe the bucket isn’t going to be enough. What do you do then? [Dr. Hudson]
If you’re up to, if you’re over an acre, for sure over an acre, then you need to be using
a bait. If you put it out twice a year … There used
to be a guarantee on some brands that you would have no mounds. [Ranger Nick]
Okay. [Dr. Hudson]
Right? That’s pretty good. [Ranger Nick]
All right, yeah. [Dr. Hudson]
If you’re in smaller than an acre then if you’re treating mounds individually, that’s
a thing for retired people. [Ranger Nick]
Okay….”Laughing” [Dr. Hudson]
Because you’re going to be doing that constantly, and you never win that. [Ranger Nick]
Yeah. [Dr. Hudson]
So you need to treat the whole area. [Ranger Nick]
Excellent. [Dr. Hudson]
And if you treat the whole area with a broadcast spray or spread granules out you can suppress
ants, and suppress is all you’re going to do with that sort of treatment for anywhere
from a few weeks to a couple of months. [Ranger Nick]
Interesting. [Dr. Hudson]
And that’s it. [Ranger Nick]
Well I got to tell you, I don’t know about the folks at home, I have learned so much
about what I’m doing wrong. I’ve learned so much about the culture of
the ant colony. Dr. Hudson, thanks so much for today. I so appreciate it. Such an interesting topic. I can’t wait for the folks at home to see
it. You all know what to do. When you’re at home checking things out online
maybe about fire ants in your area, hop on over to the Farm Monitor Facebook page and
check that out. While you’re on Facebook, check out the Ranger
Nick Facebook page and see what I’ve got going on in my world. Until next time, as I always say Dr. Hudson,
for the Farm Monitor I’m Ranger Nick reminding you that enthusiasm is contagious. So pass it on. You all, thanks so much for watching. We’ll see you right back here again next month. See you. [Fast paced music]

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