The McAlester Parks and Recreation Department is urging area residents and visitors to watch and beware of fire ant colonies in public spaces and parks this summer.

Red imported fire ants are stinging insects that infest more than 325 million acres in the southern United States, according to Oklahoma State University's Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology.

McAlester Community Services Director Mel Priddy reported that fire ants have started to appear in almost all of the city’s parks over the past few years.

 “We want to make sure people pay attention to where mounds are and stay clear of them,” Priddy said.

OSU stresses that adults and children should take care not to disturb fire ant mounds. They report that the insects pose a significant health hazard due to aggressive attacks and stinging behavior.

The city maintains more than 15 parks throughout the community.

“We are diligently working to treat the mounds as we become aware of them,” said Land Maintenance Supervisor Sherman Miller. “As most of us in Southeastern Oklahoma know by now, these fire ants are a very persistent pest.”

For more information about fire ants, visit the OSU Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology’s website at http://entoplp.okstate.edu/fireants/red-imported-fire-ants.