ST. LOUIS — Red imported fire ants have begun their invasion of Missouri.
State extension entomologist Richard Houseman and Missouri Department of Agriculture entomologist Judy Grundler confirmed Wednesday that the destructive ants built mounds in the southeast Missouri town of Kennett.
The ants have been in the U.S. for more than 50 years. The massive colonies destroy crops, damage farms and hasten soil erosion. Humans and livestock are particularly vulnerable to the insect's stinging attacks.
Officials aren't sure how the ants arrived in Kennett, but Houseman says it could have been from landscaping plants purchased in nearby states where fire ants are established, including Arkansas and Tennessee.