State agriculture officials say North Carolina's fire ant infestation continues to expand partially as a result of mild winters and more recently increased residential and commercial development which can bring infested sod and shrubs. Although fire ant stings are not fatal for most people, they are painful. The busiest season for fire ants in our area is typically August through October. That's also the time when people spend the most time outdoors in parks. Park officials say at the height of fire ant season they use insecticide to keep the ants at bay every week. The best way to avoid a fire ant sting is to stay away from their mounds and don't knock the mound over. Scientists say destroying the mound can actually cause the fire ants to spread over a larger area.