Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Attack of the fire ants

We've been very lucky this year to have a relatively wet, cool spring in this part of the world. I say "relatively," because just two years ago, by this time we'd already had 10 days over 100 degrees and hadn't seen a drop of rain for over six months. When you're comparing to that sort of drought, highs in the mid-90s, with a weekly or bi-weekly rain, seems quite mild.

While rain is wonderful for our pastures and trees, and I won't complain about a drop of it, it has the unfortunate side effect of bringing the fire ants up to the surface. If you live in a part of the world with no fire ants, count your blessings. They are truly nasty creatures that were imported into the US in the 1930s and have been spreading since. They take over everything, decimating the local population of insects and stinging en masse anything that disturbs their nests. Stings are initially painful and then incredibly itchy. Put it this way - I won't go outside without boots on right now, and I always look where I put my feet.

Unfortunately, poor Echo wasn't as lucky. The boys were turned out in one of the front pastures the other evening, and Echo decided to roll. I watched him do it, and then shortly after noticed him rearing up and double-barrel kicking the air, repeatedly. Our neighbor was riding down the street on his horse at the time, so I thought that perhaps Echo was feeling a bit frisky with the neighbor horse in close proximity. Still, it was odd behavior. Then at night check, I noticed that Echo was behaving really strangely. He and Cash usually come in and share a beet pulp snack while I take off their fly gear and check them over. Echo was interested in the BP, but he'd take a bite, walk around in an agitated manner, sniff the ground, pester Cash, and swish his tail madly. I thought he might be colicking, but he was eating and not rolling. I finally ended up putting Cash in the stall to eat his share of the BP in peace, Echo was pestering him so much!

I watched Echo for a few more minutes, pacing constantly, all but wringing his tail, trying to figure it out. Finally he came over to me and put his head in my arms, and as I rubbed his face I noticed how the barn lights were shining against his gleaming, dappled coat... with the HUNDREDS OF WELTS ALL OVER HIS SIDE. I realized immediately that he must have rolled in fire ants, and the antics before were desperate attempts to get them off. Poor guy! I ended up calling my vet to consult about what I could give him to reduce the pain and swelling, since he was so miserable. Turns out that a nice cold hosing, along with 30 mg of Dex, was just the thing, and luckily I have plenty of that on hand for Cash. I stuffed the Dex pills in some carrots (since he was too agitated to eat anything that wasn't hand-fed) and he gobbled them up. Fortunately, by this morning, the welts were gone and Echo seems to be back to normal.

In the meantime, I purchased four containers of fire ant poison and have so far treated over 250 mounds, most of them very small. We had been using the "environmentally friendly" version, but eff that shit. I want those little bastards DEAD, immediately if not sooner.
Especially the fire ants!

23 comments:

  1. I accidentally sat on (well, next to... but close enough) a nest of fire ants once. Fun times! Thankfully I quickly realized what had happened, and ran & jumped into a conveniently located fountain before things got too bad. Sounds like poor Echo wasn't so lucky though :(

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    1. Kate, EEEEK! Glad there was a handy fountain nearby. Did you know that in super heavy rains, fire ants form little floating pads of ants? That's right, the little bastards can FLOAT. *shudder*

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  2. Gosh they sound like nasty beggars!
    Poor Echo, glad that he's on the road to recovery now though - fingers crossed the decontamination works and you get rid of them all!

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    1. Aoife, they are pretty awful if you mess with them. Be very glad you're in a place that doesn't have them!

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  3. Oh, yuck. We had those everywhere when living in South Carolina. They are seriously nasty!

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    1. Carly, I swear they can take over a field in no time flat. You have to be really, really diligent. Currently I'm carrying a container of stuff with me everywhere I go and treating every time I see one. DIE ANTS DIE!!!

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  4. They are nasty - poor baby. I am glad you had stuff on hand to help him. I smiled a little when you said he came and put his head in your arms - he knew his two-legged mom could help him.

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    1. It's definitely nice to have a little bit of a pharmacy on hand for strange emergencies like this one. Poor guy!

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    1. We haetes them too. HAETES THEM!

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  6. Wow, poor Echo. I've only ever experience a single fire ant bite, and that was miserable enough. Can't even imagine rolling in them. Sounds like you will show those ants whose boss, they don't stand a chance against an angry horse mom in terminator mode!

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    1. Haha, I do totally feel like someone in terminator mode. THEY MUST ALL DIE!

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  7. Mmm - there are times when organic, gentle-on-the-earth, environmentally-friendly just doesn't cut it and you just need the real thing.
    When I was moving to Texas I asked a vet who had lived here what I should know about. She said, "watch out for rattle snakes and fire ants."

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    1. Fortunately I have yet to encounter a rattle snake at Wyvern Oaks, but I know they're out there. The fire ants are enough, thanks.

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  8. How wretched! I've never been around them and have no desire to change that.

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    1. Yeah, fire ants are not something you want. But, don't you have Hobo spiders or something like that up there?

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  9. One day, very early in my stint as a Texan, I jumped way high in the air to catch a frisbee and landed in a fire ant mound.

    Within two seconds (literally) there were ants in my pants... my underpants. No need to go into details. Now there is NO MERCY!!

    Good luck with the eradication campaign. ;D

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    1. CFS, I have unfortunately also had that experience. I recommend avoiding it at all costs. And I agree, there is no mercy to show to fire ants!!!

      Someday you'll have to blog about your Texas experience. I'm curious!

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    2. Will do. I loved Tx, although I lived in Houston (went to Rice) and really wanted to live in Austin... ;D

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  10. I know in some parts of Texas and Oklahoma there are very large fire ants, none of the tiny ones! I got bit once and it was just as bad as a wasp sting. :-( I hope you get rid of them!

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    1. Fire ants are no fun, no matter what size they are! They must all DIE!!!

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  11. I totally agree, death to all fire ants! My sweet mare apparently rolled in a mound sometime after evening feeding and before morning feeding. She has bumps all over her neck. :( The evil bastards were still clinging onto her mane! Needless to say, she's getting a nice cool hose down, hydrocortizone creamed up, and spoil rotten (even more so than usual) today. Whoever brought fire ants here should be tied up and placed on top of a fire ant mound! Hate those evil ants!!!

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    1. Oh no, Misty, your poor mare! I'm glad you had some hydrocortizone cream on hand for her. Poor baby, fire ants are the worst! I hope the welts go down quickly and she feels better soon.

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