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Siesta Key Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 5 years ago

Ants threaten shorebird habitat

by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

Add fire ants to the list of dangers, including tropical cyclones, raccoons and humans, snowy plover chicks face before and after they hatch.

Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson asked, during a Dec. 17 meeting, for county staff to contact Siesta Key Association members Dr. Allan Worms and Bob Luckner about the ant hills appearing in protected dunes skirting Beach Road.

The pair volunteered to get permission from property owners to use organic ant killer on their lands, which serve as nesting locations for the threatened shorebirds.

“Apparently (the ants) are perfectly capable of eating through eggs and killing the young babies as they hatch,” Patterson said during the meeting.

Luckner and Worms will have a constricted time to work with if they want to clear out the ants before plover nesting season, which runs from March to August.

The county restricts the use of pesticides during the rainy months of the year, June 1 through Sept. 30, and has stringent restrictions about the use near bodies of water.

The county enacted the restrictions in 2007 to reduce toxins runoff can carry into waterways.

Pesticide use is not allowed on parcels with conservation easements, such as the two properties east of Siesta Key Beach Access 10, which housed at least two plover nests during the most recent nesting season.

Patterson asked county staff to explore waivers to allow pesticide use in the area, because it would be environmentally friendly and protect the plovers from another predator.

The public beach tapers as it stretches eastward toward a thicker stretch of dunes, where Sarasota Audubon Society and SKA volunteers have spotted plovers and other shorebirds.

Tropical Storm Debby flooded one plover nest this year, and SKA President Catherine Luckner identified another destroyed nest that showed signs of human disturbance.

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