Red Imported Fire AntFire ant mounds are periodically detected in western Kentucky. There have been several detection and eradication events in Calloway County in and around the city of Murray and, more recently, in a national recreation area and a state park in Trigg County.  Some infestations have been eradicated and some are in the process of being eradicated.  Three of the most recent finds are described below: 

 In November 2012, suspect fire ant mounds were detected by a homeowner in Calloway County, Kentucky in the town of New Concord. The homeowner contacted the county agent who contacted our office.  We took samples and the suspects were identified as Solenopsis invicta Buren by a USDA identifier on December 3, 2012.  We treated the mounds, but are continually monitoring the situation by surveying the area.   

 In July 2013, federal personnel from Land Between the Lakes (LBL) National Recreation Area (Trigg County) informed an extension entomologist in our department, Dr. Ric Bessin, that fire ant mounds had been detected.  Dr. Bessin took a sample which we submitted for USDA identification.  The suspects were identified as Solenopsis richteri Forel by a USDA identifier on September 6, 2013. 

Red Imported Fire Ant moundOn a scouting trip from October 22 – 24, 2014, a fire ant mound was detected in Lake Barkley State Park in Trigg County.  Samples were sent to Mississippi Entomological Museum for identification and we received a positive identification that they were fire ants, although they couldn’t determine whether they were black imported fire ants or the hybrid.  We treated the mound and are monitoring it as well as the rest of the state park.

Several mounds were detected and treated in 2015.  We treated 2 mounds found by LBL personnel in May and August 2015.  On May 13, 2015, we received an email from LBL personnel that they had located an active mound on the same off ramp where IFA had been found in 2013 (but not the exact same location).  We treated the mound on May 19 and 20, 2015. We also collected ants and sent them to Mississippi State University for identification.  Based on the condition of the sample and the continuum of hybridness in IFA, the identifier could not be positive, but strongly suspected S. richteri.  On July 28, 2015, LBL informed us that they had found another positive IFA mound.  An extension entomologist in our department had already planned a trip to LBL, so he treated the mound on August 1 and 2, 2015.  He also took a sample which the State Survey Coordinator prepared according to protocol so that Mississippi State University personnel could perform cuticular hydrocarbon analysis for a definitive identification.  The ants were identified as S. richteri.

Red Imported Fire Ant adultRegulatory personnel from the University of Kentucky’s Office of the State Entomologist need to continually survey for fire ants using visual surveys and/or baited canisters (baited with peanut oil) to determine the extent of the problem.  Past detections in western Kentucky have resulted in successful eradications.  These surveys will allow us to detect mounds early and treat them.

Red Imported Fire Ant damage