They’re Coming!!! 4 Scary, Gross Pests We Must Stop Now

August 8, 2013 | By | Comments (16)
Giant African Snail

Escargot, anyone? This Giant African Snail can literally eat you out of garden and home. Photo: USDA.

When some creepy, insidious, alien bug eats up your entire yard, you probably think it flew in, walked in, or crawled in by itself. But did you know that one of the most common ways evil pests invade is by hitching a ride with people? Here are 4 such pests identified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as having the potential to wreak havoc in the South. They’re either here already or itching to move in.

Scary, Gross Pest #1 — The African Giant Snail (above)
Reaching 8 inches long and 5 inches wide, this is one of the largest land snails in the world. It’s the size of your fist. Right now, it’s only in Florida, probably brought there as either somebody’s pet or somebody’s entrée (a really bad idea since it harbors a parasite that causes meningitis). But just because it’s tropical doesn’t mean it can’t take cold. It could spread as far north as Maryland and as far west as California. One snail can lay up to 1,200 eggs a year.

Nervous yet? Then chew on this. In addition to having a ravenous appetite for more than 500 kinds of fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants, your house is also on its menu. It enjoys a dessert of plaster and stucco. One portico wall coming up!

African giant snails are under federal quarantine in Florida. If you live there and spot one, put down the salt shaker and call this person immediately: Dr. Francisco Collazo-Mattei. 352-313-3060.

Emerald Ash Borer

No, this ain’t no hummingbird. It’s a serial tree killer coming to your yard called the Emerald ash borer. Photo: USDA.

Scary, Gross Pest #2 — Emerald Ash Borer (above)
The emerald ash borer is a beetle whose larvae bores into ash trees and kill them. It has killed millions since it first appeared in the Midwest about 10 years ago, probably hitching a ride from Asia in wood packing materials. It targets all species of ash, prime components of Eastern hardwood forests, including the venerable white ash (Fraxinus americana), from which Louisville Slugger bats are made.

No longer confined to the Midwest, the emerald ash borer is currently found in Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and is southward bound. An infested tree starts dying from the top. Its riddled trunk looks like this.

Emerald Ash Borer

Buckshot damage? Nope! D-shaped exit holes from the Emerald ash border. Photo: USDA

Nothing can save an infested tree. It must be cut down and destroyed. The primary way this pest moves is inside infested firewood, so never transport firewood in affected states or take it outside of your state. Burn it where you cut it! If you see signs of the Emerald ash borer, click here to report it ASAP!

Asian Longhorned Beetle

Asian longhorned beetle gets its name from its incredibly long antennae. Photo: USDA.

Scary, Gross Pest #3 — Asian Longhorned Beetle (above)
So many scary things come from Asia, like Godzilla, pu-pu platter, and North Korean haircuts. Well, here’s another one, the Asian longhorned beetle. Like the Emerald ash borer, its larvae bore into trees and kill them, which must then be cut and destroyed. This beetle doesn’t just stick to ash trees — it also kills maples, birch, willow, horse chestnut, elm, and poplar. So far, it’s been found in Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio, but entomologists see no reason it couldn’t spread nationwide.

Asian Longhorned Beetle

Pencil-size, round  holes made by Asian longhorned beetles. Bye-bye, Mr. Tree. Photo: USDA

Asian longhorned beetle spreads when people transport infested firewood, wood debris, logs, and branches from one spot to another. So don’t do that! If you see the beetle or holes in wood that look like those above, click here to file a report ASAP.

Fire Ant

When it stings you, you’ll immediately understand how the fire ant got its name. Photo: USDA

Scary, Gross Pest #4 — Imported Fire Ant (above)
OK, Northerners and Midwesterners! We’re tired of you sending horrible, fiendish bugs down South. It’s pay-back time! And what better bug to do it with than the fire ant.

About 1/4-inch long and black or reddish-brown, fire ants entered the South in Mobile, Alabama about a century ago. They’ve been marching north and west ever since and now have established frontlines in Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and recently, California. If you think winters are too cold for them to survive where you live, consider a little phenomenon called “Global Warming.” Just wait. Your turn will come.

Fire Ant

Each one of these mounds contains thousands of evil, stinging ants. Photo: USDA

See? I told you! Those are fire ant mounds in YOUR yard! Soon there will be dozens. Accidentally step on one and thousands of angry fire ants will come boiling out. Each one can sting repeatedly. Each sting forms an itchy, painful pustule. Some poor souls even die from anaphylactic shock. And it isn’t only people who suffer. Voracious fire ants wipe out all sorts of ground-dwelling wildlife, including nesting birds, and are a bane to cattle, horses, sheep, chickens, and other farm animals. They also feed on food crops, such as corn, okra, and citrus. Grumpy hates critters that steal his okra.

For you lucky enough not to have fire ants yet, the best way to keep them out is by not transporting soil, hay, and potted plants into your state from infested states. If you have them already, I wish I could give you an effective, natural, non-chemical control, BUT THERE SIMPLY ISN’T ONE. (Even Organic Gardening admits this, despite their ridiculous suggestion that you dig up a mound, dump it in a bucket, and drown the angry ants. Yeah, right — you first.) So unless you prefer black-topping your yard or chaining your kids inside the basement, your best option is to use a lawn spreader to apply a granular, season-long fire ant killer according to label directions. You can get this at garden and home centers. It’ll work for about 6 months.

Not Frozen With Fear Yet?
Read more about these pests and 11 more that have you in the crosshairs by visiting the USDA website, “Hungry Pests.” That should keep you awake at night.


  1. Monster pests may be coming to your home town! – Pro Arbor Blog

    […] They’re Coming!!! 4 Scary, Gross Pests We Must Stop Now – The Daily So… […]

    August 20, 2013 at 10:08 am
  2. Dea Van Patten

    Texas A&M University recommends the “Texas Two-Step” program for eliminating fire ants: bait to treat and kill mounds that are not in the immediate traffic path (this could take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months), and chemicals to kill the mounds around the house foundation and in traffic paths (this usually works in 24-48 hours). Here is a link to their website page concerning the program:

    Although boiling water and DE appear to kill the mound, it’s much more likely that the ants have merely moved to a more welcoming place. We have often experienced problems with ants in our yard after a neighbor has used some “organic” method of eliminating them. It simply causes them to move somewhere more congenial, like a neighbor’s yard.

    August 18, 2013 at 8:10 pm
  3. CiCi

    Hot soapy water made with dawn dishwashing will kill the mound within hours . Prove it everyday.

    August 18, 2013 at 2:00 am
  4. Jane Doh

    Oh, I saw the giant snails in Maui and loved them, they were very personable.

    August 12, 2013 at 5:01 pm
  5. Steve Bender

    I wish people would stop repeating anecdotal and totally erroneous information! To KILL a fire ant mound, you must KILL THE QUEEN (or QUEENS, as some mounds have more than one). Killing lots of visible workers at the surface does no good. The ants just pack up and build a mound elsewhere. Diatomaceous earth doesn’t work (and I’ve tried it), because it has to get from workers to the queen and this is highly unlikely. Plus, if it rains after you’ve put it down, it becomes useless. Same thing with grits and boiling water. They may kill some visible ants, but they don’t kill the queen unless you’re very, very lucky.

    August 12, 2013 at 12:14 pm
  6. charles baker

    One thing to remember is that these critters post their guards in the mound above ground. Disturb the mound at all and hundreds of ants are immediately there. They don’t have to come from those deep tunnels! Their attack is furious and unbelievably fast.

    August 12, 2013 at 7:08 am
  7. weeks

    feed fireants some soda pop……..just knocks them out……!!!

    August 11, 2013 at 6:42 pm
  8. Arthur in the Garden!

    They also have a strange attraction to electrical fields so they sometimes will short out electrical boxes and other large electrical equipment.

    August 11, 2013 at 11:57 am
  9. Bobby Commander

    Grits kill ants. It’s basically like rice to birds, and the best part, they take the food to the queen so the queen dies first! Trust me this works better than any chemical!

    August 11, 2013 at 8:59 am
  10. Dave

    There absolutely IS a non-chemical solution to pest control involving any insect with an exoskeleton. It’s called diatomaceous earth. You can buy this powder online, it comes in packages as large as 25 pounds or more, and is relatively cheap. It’s so safe, some people mix it in water and take it as a dietary supplement. Farmers mix it into cattle feed to rid their livestock of intestinal parasites. It’s composed of the ground up, fossilized skeletons of single-celled organisms called diatoms (hence, the name). Liberally douse the anthill and surrounding area in this white powder, and come back in a day to see the results. It mechanically destroys the exoskeletons of insects, causing them to die of dehydration. You can literally use it anywhere, including inside your home where pets stay, because it is completely chemical-free. You’re welcome.

    August 10, 2013 at 10:48 pm
  11. James

    We kill fire ants with corn meal. They love it. They eat it, but can’t digest it. They die. Put a TBSP or two on a mound. Wait a day or two and they are gone!!!

    August 10, 2013 at 8:54 pm
  12. GrandmaLynda

    I have actually had pretty good success getting rid of fire ant mounds by taking a water hose and forcing it as far down the center of the mound as I can get it. I have pushed one as far as 6 feet down before. I then turn on the water full blast. Then go back and try to force it further down as the water breaks away parts of the mount. Once you have gotten as far as you can force it, let it run for about an hour.

    Somehow, this seems to kill the mound. I assume it is because I drown the queen. Now a bucket of water won’t work; it takes a hose. Get a pretty stiff one so it doesn’t fold up as it hits harder areas. You need to work it up and down and push it as far down as you possibly can.

    I had several large mounds in my goat pasture and had one infant goat die because of fire ant bites and I just got madder than hell and decided to do what I could to get rid of them. I had not had any success with other methods because I had to be careful about the goats. I was able to totally eliminate the ants from my yard using this method.

    I don’t know if they migrated to the neighbor’s house but I just know they were nowhere to be found on my 12 acres.

    August 10, 2013 at 7:49 pm
  13. lp

    fire ants eat termites. I let them live, just dont step on them.

    August 10, 2013 at 1:07 pm
  14. jenn

    Boiling water poured on a fire ant mound works pretty well. It might take 2 treatments to get all the ants but it works and it’s cheap!

    August 9, 2013 at 7:45 pm
  15. Joanne Greer

    I love this site. Thanks.

    Agriculture Standards Tech.

    August 9, 2013 at 2:55 pm
  16. Laurie

    Taking into consideration that this will likely kill the grass immediately around the mound as well, but plain white vinegar poured all over the mound twice a week until there is no more sign of life. It worked quite well for my parents fire ant mounds in Texas. Either that or several applications of diatomaceaus earth (so I’ve heard).

    August 9, 2013 at 12:36 pm

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