When I was young, I only thought you could encounter fire ants out West. We visited relatives in New Mexico a number of times and saw plenty of fire ant hills while out riding or off-roading or whatever. I never saw them here, though.

But that all changed a couple of decades ago.

It was in 2000, according to the University of Kentucky's entomology department, that fire ants began making appearances in the Land Between the Lakes area. They've occasional appearances ever since. And just last year, they popped up in three southern Kentucky counties--Whitley, Knox, and McCreary.

You know, the fire ants I'VE seen are in those gigantic mounds that almost look like pyramids. But they can hide. Look how easily these things can be stirred up.

Listen, fire ants are a nasty business. We were always warned never to let the horse we were riding step into one of them, and you can see why. Those things would race up the animal's leg and then he or she would likely buck you off from the pain. Then it would be your turn. Yes, they are terrible for ecosystems but they are clearly a major health hazard as well. The UK experts explain:

Fire ants are a significant health concern and can be agricultural pests. Worker ants will vigorously defend their nest, often resulting in dozens of stings on people and animals. The sting site will burn and become inflamed. Anaphylaxis is possible in sensitive people.

Here's what it looks like when a fire ant bites you:

@antlab1 Here’s what happens when an ant bites (and stings) you. #learnontiktok #edutok #entomology #antsoftiktok #insects ♬ original sound - Ant Lab

Imported fire ants (IFAs) build massive colonies that can house thousands of ants. And they seem to be increasing in population with each passing year. Getting from LBL to eastern Kentucky is quite a haul. And the scientists at the University of Kentucky can't exactly put their fingers on how they got here in the first place, but they've made an educated guess about how they've managed to spread...the wind. They also could've lodged themselves inside soil, mulch, and straw.

Just be mindful if you're out and about in Kentucky this summer. You absolutely don't want to step on one of those colonies.

Hopefully, they'll soon find a way to EXPORT all these IMPORTED fire ants.

[SOURCE: Louisville Courier-Journal]

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