Blog Post

Fire Ants in Land Between The Lakes

Fire Ants in Land Between The Lakes

Submitted by University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Department of Entomology

Imported Fire Ants in Land Between The Lakes?

Imported fire ants (IFA) have recently begun to appear in the Land Between The Lakes and in parts of Calloway county, KY. Most of the mounds in Land Between The Lakes have been found in Tennessee, but a few have been found in Kentucky.

IFA may look like ordinary ants but their behavior is anything but ordinary! IFA display an aggressive behavior and build mound shaped nests. The top of these mounds will have a freshly tilled appearance. Mounds are typically found in open areas such as lawns, pastures, farm fields and rights-of-ways. The ants are 1/8 to 1/4 inch in length and are reddish brown to black in color.

Photo from

IFA are native to South America and were accidentally introduced into the US in the 1930’s. Since that time they have been expanding their range and have now spread into 13 states. We believe that IFA initially got to Land Between The Lakes when the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers flooded which caused the ants to form a raft and float downstream to the area. Note: Both the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers flow from south to north.

Aggressive behavior

fire ant bites
Photo provided by Murray S. Blum, University of Georgia,

IFA attack anything that disturbs their mound. They rapidly swarm onto and repeatedly sting anything that disturbs their mound. When the ants come out of their mound, they do not come from a single hole; rather the entire mound seems to “boil” out ants.

The sting from an IFA can cause severe pain, discomfort and reactions in allergic individuals. Within seconds of being stung, a red welt will form and will be accompanied by an intense burning pain at the site. The welt will turn into a blister which eventually turns into a white pustule. The pain and itching may last for several days before subsiding.

What can you do?

IFA affect ground-nesting birds and reptiles during and soon after hatching. Deer are also vulnerable as fawns instinctively remain motionless in their hiding places. IFA will also attack hatching quail and ground-nesting waterfowl chicks.

If you think you have found an IFA mound, please note your location either with a GPS unit (latitude/longitude) or with a detailed map that includes a phone number and contact information. If you find mounds in Land Between The Lakes, contact the Forest Service at (270) 924-2065. If mounds are found outside Land Between The Lakes (in Kentucky) contact the KY Office of the State Entomologist at (859) 257-5838 or you may email information to Joe Collins at [email protected].

Print your own info sheet from our Print On Demand section.


Related Posts