Smoky Mountain Fire Ant Invasion

Fire ants have marched into Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

Smoky Mountain Fire Ant Invasion is underway. This small intruder may pose huge problems in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Packing a powerful sting and an invasive history, fire ants are on the move in the mountains, according to research from the highlands Biological Station of western Carolina University.

Fire ants were accidentally introduced from South America in Mobile, Alabama sometime in the early 1930s. This invasive species has proven to be an efficient predator which not only feeds on, but also displaces native insects thus interrupting the food chain for native birds and wildflower pollinators.

Biologist once believed that fire ants could not survive in the higher elevations of southern Appalachia, but a recent study has disproved that theory.

This invasion comes with dire conservation implications for the forested mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. Jim Costa, professor of evolutionary biology at Western Carolina University and executive director of Highlands Biological station. site of a 23-acre research lab, is quoted as saying “…although they will spread and be pests in urban, suburban and agricultural environments in our region, the biggest potential ecological impact of the ants persisting at higher elevations will be in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and especially the national forests…

Costa said disturbed soil and sunlight along U.S. Service forest roads, logged areas and power line cuts will provide a “toe-hold” for the insects allowing them to “wreak havoc” in adjacent forests.

According to Costa, the ants are adapting to colder winters. Colonies were found to survive at elevations over 4,000 feet and laboratory studies indicate that the ant’s ability to withstand cold is directly related to those collected from higher elevations, adding that those ants are proving to be far more cold hardy than their low-land cousins.

So, they are here to stay,” said Costa., “their ability to adapt is probably going to be aided by climate change as it gets warmer at higher elevations, but our study results suggest that even in a non-warming scenario they would continue to adapt and spread here.”

The HeySmokies.com expeditionary team encountered their first fire ant hill in Elkmont, GSMNP. If disturbed the ants aggressively defend their home. Multiple fire ant bites can be a very serious health risk to small children and pets. Like all wild animals and insects, it is always wise to keep a safe distance when you encounter fire ants. For more information about Smoky Mountain wildlife visit NPS.gov.

Source material – PLOS ONE Journal

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Virtual Campout

Smoky Mountain virtual campout will be fun for the entire family!
Smoky Mountain virtual campout will be fun for the entire family!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will co-host the National Park Service Memorial Day Weekend Virtual Campout. This three-day social media event will offer a trove of unique park adventures. The cool thing is visitors can enjoy the event from the comfort of their own living room.

Twenty national parks across America and the Caribbean have teamed up for this effort. The event kicks-off on Facebook on Saturday, May 23, 2020 at 3:00 p.m. The offering will include a range of videos, activities and livestreams suitable for all ages covering topics from history to nature and recreation.

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Clingmans Dome Opens

Clingmans Dome Opens to the publi for 2020 season.
Clingmans Dome Opens to the public for 2020 season.

Clingmans Dome Opens. Clingmans Dome is one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This high elevation oasis in the clouds is the highest peak in Tennessee at 6,643 feet above sea level.

Getting There

From Gatlinburg: Take Newfound Gap Road (U.S. Hwy 441 South) for 14 miles to Newfound Gap. Just past Newfound Gap, turn right onto Clingmans Dome Road and travel 7 miles to the parking area.

From Cherokee: Take Newfound Gap Road (U.S. Hwy 441 North) for 19 miles and turn left onto Clingmans Dome Road and travel 7 miles to the parking area.

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Smoky Mountain Attractions Open

Smoky Mountain attractions open after COVID-19 closures.
Smoky Mountain attractions open after COVID-19 closures.

Smoky Mountain attractions open after two months of covid-19 fears.

Smoky Mountain attractions open after two months of covid-19 fears. Beginning Friday, May 22, 2020 popular Smoky Mountain attractions will open with new social distancing guidelines.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee remarked, “Tennesseans have worked incredibly hard to do their part and help slow the spread of COVID-19 so that our state can begin to reopen. Thanks to their continued efforts we’re able to allow restaurants and retail businesses to operate at greater capacity and large attractions to open in a safe and thoughtful way.

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park Opens

Great Smoky Mountains National Park opens with much anticipation.

The Covid-19 virus pandemic forced the closure of Great Smoky Mountains nearly two months ago and the public is itching to return to their favorite places in the park. The opening will be done in phases over the coming weeks beginning May 9, 2020.

We are excited to return to our favorite national park,” said Reba Miller. ” Our family loves the Smoky Mountains and our plan is to picnic in Cades Cove!

The following roads and facilities will open May 9, 2020. The remaining closed facilities are scheduled to announce their opening dates in the coming weeks.