Everything About Fire Ants

Scientifically dubbed Solenopsis Invicta, Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA) are one of the most aggressive and dangerous ant species in the United States due to their painful stings. Fire ants are native to South American countries like Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay, but were accidentally brought to the US in the 1930s via cargo ships. They currently infest up to 13 western and southern states, including most of Texas.

These ants have large colonies that build mounds in nearly every soil type, but they prefer to nest in areas with plenty of sunshine, such as lawns, golf courses, and parks. A fire ant colony will have three kinds of ants; workers, queens, and alates. The three ants play different roles in their colony and can be differentiated by their size.

Workers feed the queen and their young, maintain, sanitize and defend the colony, and forage for food. The queens’ role is to lay as many eggs as possible, whereas the alates mate with the queens during the nuptial flights for reproduction.

How to Identify Fire Ants

You can quickly identify fire ants by their color, size, behavior, and body.

Color: Their body coloration ranges from reddish-brown to reddish black.

Size: Fire ants differ in size from the workers and alates to queens, but they all range from 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 of an inch long.

Body: Fire ants are protected by a tough exoskeleton, like all other insects, and have six legs. Workers have a round head with mandibles, a reinforced thorax and an abdomen. Fire ant workers have an abdominal stinger to inject victims with alkaloid venom.

Diet: Fire ants are omnivores and will feed on plant-based foods such as nectar, honeydew, fruits, and seeds, as well as small animals, insects, and carcasses. However, when they get into your house, they’ll scavenge for sweet and fatty items.

Behavior and Habitat: Fire ants build loose soil or sand mounds that can rise to over one foot in height. They tend to avoid shaded areas when creating these mounds, but are less active during the hottest hours of the day. Similar to other ants, you may see more of them after rain when they move closer to the surface to avoid flooded tunnels and relocate their nests.

Are Fire Ants Dangerous?

Fire ants are very aggressive, with the ability to cause serious damage to you, your family, and your pets. They will not shy away from taking you on once they become agitated, swarming in large numbers and leveraging their abdominal stinger to inject their perceived attacker with venomous alkaloids. This venom causes irritation, pain, and bumps that are itchy and may get infected when scratched. Fire ant stings may also cause severe allergic reactions that may lead to nausea, chest pain, sweating, slurred speech, and loss of breath for highly sensitive individuals.

Fire ants can create very large nests, which are not only unsightly but are also a concern for gardeners. They may cause damage to your plants by scavenging them for food, and will swarm and sting anyone that gets too close.

How to Prevent and Control Fire Ant Invasions

Homeowners can help prevent ant infestations by cleaning up food debris, putting food in tightly closed containers, keeping the lawn mowed and tidy, as well as moving woodpiles far away from physical structures.

While all of these things will help, fire ants live in large colonies, with potentially dozens of queens and over 250,000 workers, making them incredibly daunting to control. If you notice a fire ant infestation on your property, the best thing to do is to seek the services of the professional technicians at Domain Pest Control!

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Fire ant
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