MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Tiny, red and vicious fire ants are starting to pop up all across the region.
Kids and pets are especially vulnerable because they may not know what they're walking into.
"They've taken over the area over the years because they are so aggressive, and they do have such a strong sting," said Joey Davis, owner of AAA Pet Control.
According to Clemson.edu,children and youth have the highest sting rate. And the stings, as many people have learned the hard way, often lead to infection or severe scarring, even allergic reactions. And they're also tough on your pets. Sine they dont wear shoes, stepping on a colony can mean a trip to the animal hospital.
Getting rid of fire ants can be a daunting task and a threat to your safety if not done carefully.
"Usually a slow-killing pesticide works best on fire ants than something that kills them instantly," according to Davis.
The problem may start with one colony, then more pop up. The ants are just beginning to colonize after the cold winter months, and mounds can be as deep as nine feet under the ground.
"We've heard everything from people pouring coffee grounds, to baking soda, to gasoline, to bleach to all kinds of things," Davis said. "And really all it does is end up killing your grass and poisoning the environment."
Pest control experts say never use anything except specialized fire ant pesticides if you're buying from the store. General pesticides may get rid of the ants on the surface- 500 or so, but leave thousands below to escape and move the colony a few feet away.
"Proper gloves is a must," Davis warned. "And if you're going to be using some kind of spray we recommend sunglasses, something to keep anything from splashing back at you. If you are going to use a dust, make sure you use some type of quality dust mask."
Davis added the better kept your yard is, the less likely you are to have a fire ant problem because the ants like patches of dirt.