Spring is here and the fire ants are coming out to mate. The winged females and winged males will launch from a mound up to 300 to 800 feet to mate and then the male dies. (Sorry men).

The female will land usually within five miles and go into the ground to start a new colony. A mature mound will have 80,000 to 250,000 ants and can produce up to 2,000 queens a year, but only 1 percent survive.

That's still 20 new mounds that one mature mound made. The queen can live as long as seven years. Two-thirds of a mound is underground, so its what you don't see that can hurt you.

Oh, by the way, fire ants cannot eat grits, they can only ingest liquids. The workers are all sterile females (with attitudes). They bite and sting. If you are allergic to bees and wasps, you will be allergic to fire ants - they are in the same classification.

Fire ants are here to stay, and we must deal with them. Educate yourselves about the different control methods and choose wisely, remembering our children, pets, wildlife and the environment.

Pesticides are poisons. The National Academy of Sciences estimates 50 percent of lifetime pesticide exposure occurs during the first five years of life. Be wise and be smart when you make choices.

MARYLEE TAFT, R.N.

Auburndale