Competition keeps population downThat hasn’t been the case. Ipser has found that native antspecies actually help keep down fire ant populations by competingwith them.UGA entomologists now plan to compare chemical pesticidetreatments to determine how they affect both native ant and fireant populations.”People need to realize that killing all ants isn’t the bestmethod from an environmental or an economical standpoint,” Ipsersaid. “Conserving forests is one of several variables that willhelp control fire ants, too. Overall, management of pests needsto be more biologically than chemically based.”When buying pesticides to kill ants or any other insects, hesaid, select a product that’s been formulated for that insect.”For fire ants, make sure the pesticide is targeted for exoticants,” he said. Fire ants like open areasSo does this explain why fire ant mounds are commonly seen inopen areas like pastures?”When the environment is simplified, like in clear-cut, openfields, there are fewer species due to fewer available niches,”Ipser said. “Native ants don’t thrive in that kind ofenvironment, and fire ants do.”Fire ants naturally thrive in open environments because there’sless competition from native ants that prefer woodedenvironments, he said.In wooded areas, fire ants have to fight against other antspecies when foraging for food and establishing nesting sites,Ipser said.”When fire ants were first found in the United States, everyonethought they were going to wipe out all other ant species becausetheir natural enemies were back home in South America,” he said. By Sharon OmahenUniversity of GeorgiaIf you decide to take a hike through the Georgia wilderness, youmay have to fight off ticks and chiggers along the way. But arecent University of Georgia study shows you shouldn’t have toworry about fire ants.Reid Ipser, an entomology graduate student with the UGA Collegeof Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, recently completed astudy of ant habitats. For a year, he scouted sites in Georgia’sIndian Springs and High Falls state parks.”The state parks were the perfect locations for this study asthey contain both open fields and undisturbed wooded areas,”Ipser said.He collected ant species for a year and was surprised to findthat he never caught a red imported fire ant in a wooded testsite. Yet he collected native ants in abundance in the woodedtest sites.In the open-field test sites, Ipser collected many more fire antsthan native ants. Don’t kill all antsIf you have ants in your lawn that aren’t fire ants and aren’tcoming indoors, Ipser suggests leaving them alone.”If the circumference of the ant bed is the size of a quarter ora silver dollar, they aren’t pest ants,” he said. “These don’tcause ecological damage. They don’t sting. But they do competewith exotic ants like fire ants and Argentine ants.”Like the red imported fire ant, the Argentine ant is an exoticant. But it doesn’t sting.”If you find little black ants in your dishwasher, they are mostlikely Argentine ants,” Ipser said. Argentine ants typically nestnear the trunks of trees and don’t create high mounds.