Fire Ant Facts
All fire ants generally look the same. Their bodies have two distinct segments with a stinger at the tip of the abdomen. Workers range from ⅛ inch to a ¼ inch long. With the exception of the black fire ant, workers of all species are reddish brown. Fire ants have distinct patterns of yellow spots all over their bodies.
Fire Ant Bites
The fire ant gets its name from the painful bites and stings it can inflict upon an unwitting human. A fire ant will attack multiple times, leaving small, red blisters with white heads on the skin.
Fire Ant Infestation
Fire ant infestations are not difficult to spot in your home. They’re not picky eaters, so any food you have lying around is susceptible to snacking by these pests. They will eat anything from insects to small animal caracasses, garbage, seeds, and even baby birds.
Their foraging trails are often easily visible. They usually travel in groups of about a thousand ants and are often seen along foundations, sidewalks, patios and curbs. Fire ants in your home can usually be spotted along the edge of carpeting, having gotten inside through an exterior crack.
They have the ability to attack and kill animals, even livestock, when the colony is provoked. Their stings can cause blindness and swelling. Fire ants will burrow through plant stems, damaging growth and sometimes ruining agricultural crops.
Types of Fire Ants
The lifecycle of a fire ant depends on size. Minor workers will live between 30 to 60 days, intermediate workers will last 60 to 90 days, majors between 90 to 180 days, and queens anywhere from 2 to 6 years. Colonies can have anywhere from 80,000 to 250,000 ants. Fire ants reproduce through mating flights, usually 6 to 8 times a season from spring to fall. Colonies are found in cone-shaped mounds that can be as large as 1 to 2 feet in diameter and 1 to 1.5 feet high.
There are four species of fire ant: red imported fire ant, black imported fire ant, tropical fire ant and southern fire ant. It can be very challenging to tell the difference between each fire ant species because not only do they look similar and live in many of the same areas, but they can also interbreed.
Red Imported Fire Ant Identification
The red imported fire ant, the most common of the four, was introduced to the United States from Brazil sometime between 1933 and 1945 and was first found in Mobile, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida. This species, as well as the black imported fire ant, most likely hitched a ride in the soil used as ballast on trade ships. The red imported fire ant has been found in most southern and western states from Maryland to California. The worker ants range in size from ⅛ to ¼ of an inch and their bodies are a rusty brown color.
Black Imported Fire Ant Identification
The black imported fire ant was unknowingly brought to the United States around 1918 and first established in Mobile, Alabama. It is not as aggressive as the red imported fire ant, which has actually pushed out much of this species. Today, black imported fire ants are only in isolated parts of Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.
Tropical Fire Ant Identification
The tropical fire ant, also referred to as the native fire ant, can be found from Texas into parts of Southern California, as well as Florida and Hawaii. They range both in size and color, from about an ⅓ of an inch and smaller and from reddish-brown to black.
Southern Fire Ant Identification
The southern fire ant is also known as the Californian fire ant and cotton-ant. It is established from Texas to South Carolina into Northwest Florida, California and Hawaii. The southern fire ant also ranges in size and color. Lighter reddish-brown fire ants seem to be more fond of living in desert-like climates while darker fire ants prefer areas that are more heavily forested.
Fire Ants In The Home & The Garden
Fire ants thrive in most environments with the exceptions of swampland and dense forests. They are usually found in open fields and lawns. However, they can make their way into houses and commercial buildings while looking for food and water. Around your home, they will most likely be found in landscaped areas that are rich in moisture. You should take special care to check your electrical appliances. Fire ants are drawn to places where electricity is constantly flowing. They have been found in places like air-conditioning units as well as gas and water meter boxes. If this happens, the infested device will likely malfunction.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do fire ants bite?
When a colony of fire ants is disturbed, they react by first biting the intruder and then injecting venom through a painful sting. This can cause swelling, itchiness and blisters that usually heal within a few days.
What do fire ant bites look like?
Fire ant bites and stings usually itch and sting. Sometimes these hive-like welts can worsen and become filled with pus. Take these steps to treat stings at home:
- Thoroughly wash the affected area with soap and water.
- Place ice on the sting for ten minutes and then off for ten minutes and repeat. If the affected individual has circulation problems, decrease the amount of time ice is applied.
- If you experience nausea or sweating, seek immediate medical attention as you may be allergic.
Benefits of Professional Fire Ant Pest Control
A pest management professional has the education, equipment and skills necessary to effectively address a fire ant problem. Finding and treating the ant colony can be challenging, especially if the main colony is hidden somewhere outside in the lawn. A pest management professional provides their expertise to identify the pest problem and determine the best possible solution to resolve the fire ant infestation.