No one wants fire ants to show up to their summer picnic. But as much as we'd like to avoid them, sometimes they're just an inevitable fact of nature. How much do you know about fire ants? Here are the top 8 things you should know.
1. There is more than just 1 species of fire ants.
There are several species of fire ants in the United States, including native and nonnative species. You might encounter native southern fire ants, tropical fire ants, desert fire ants, little fire ants, red imported fire ants and black imported fire ants.
2. The most commonly encountered fire ant is the red imported fire ant.
The red imported fire ant (RIFA for short) can be found in at least 15 of the southeastern US states, reaching from Virginia and North Carolina through Texas to New Mexico and across to California. This species of fire ants pose the most irritating and serious medical threat from stinging.
3. The red imported fire ant was accidentally brought into the United States in the 1930s.
Native to South America, the red imported fire ant was initially transplanted into Alabama via a shipment of cargo in the 1930s. For the next hundred years, they have spread and thrived throughout the southern states thanks to warm climates and lack of predators.
4. Fire ants are omnivores, eating both meat and plant sources of food.
This includes insects, earthworms, ticks, spiders, arthropod eggs, birds, and rodents. They also eat seeds and other sweets.
5. A small percentage of people are allergic to a fire ant's sting.
Much like a bee or hornet sting, a fire ant sting is highly irritating to most humans. One ant can sting multiple times. They will move in a circle, continuing to sting until they are dislodged or killed. While their bites are painful to everyone, only a small percentage of humans are seriously allergic to them.
6. Fire ants are attracted to warm and sunny conditions.
You are more likely to see a fire ant colony in open fields and sunny lawns than in a forest with a lot of shady trees and dark areas. Their mounds help regulate temperatures throughout the colony below, allowing them to survive severe weather and changes of season.
7. Fire ants build visible soil mounds.
Their mounds are normally dome-shaped and can reach as high as 18 cm and as wide as 60 cm. Just one mound can house between 100,000 to 500,000 individual fire ants, including at least one queen. Red imported fire ant colonies often have multiple queens in just one colony, which helps them start new colonies very easily. The queen ants can live up to six years.
8. Fire ants can be very aggressive when their mounds are disturbed.
If mounds are disturbed, fire ants will emerge aggressively. They crawl up vertical surfaces, biting and stinging. However, mounds that remain undisturbed while a colony rapidly multiplies are also troublesome. The fire ants will send additional queens to begin new mounds nearby.
If you have issues with fire ants in your yard, don’t wait to start treating them. Contact our team today!