Fire Ant Realities: Facts About the South’s Most Persistent Pest

June 15, 2014

Anyone who’s ever lived in the south has had to deal with fire ants at one point or another. Many times, the results aren’t pretty, and for some of us, an encounter with a fire ant mount may have even resulted in a trip to the emergency room. It’s common knowledge that at certain times of the year, if you make a misstep in a pair of flip flops, you could be covered in tiny, stinging, itchy bumps within seconds.

This summer, if you’re going to be working out in the yard or letting your family play in areas po-tentially infested with fire ants, our pest control experts want you to protect yourself and your family by knowing the facts about red ants and how they can cause harm.

Fire Ants: Where Do They Come From?

There are more than 280 species of red ants, but the Solenopsis invicta are the species that have predominantly invaded the southeastern U.S.

The red imported fire ant, the type of fire ant found most frequently in the United States, is be-lieved to have been accidentally introduced to the U.S. via shipping crates from Brazil.

Traits of Fire Ants

Fire ants may be between 1/16 and 1/4 length in length.

Unlike other types of ants, fire ants bite only to get a grip. The pain actually comes from stingers that protrude from the ants’ abdomens. Most other types of ants do not sting.

Fire ants are able to survive extreme conditions, including temperatures as low as 16° Fahrenheit.

When it rains, fire ants can uniquely react to flood situations by gathering into a “raft” situation with the queen in the middle and floating until the group comes to land. This not only means flooding doesn’t help exterminate fire ant colonies, but it also means rainfall can actually con-tribute to the spread of fire ants into other regions.

Fire ants are so aggressive that they have, in many cases, pushed away native species. Their diets consist of dead animals, insects and earthworms, but they will attack anything that disturbs their mound, including humans.

It takes only 30 days for a fire ant to go from egg to adult, and a typical worker ant will live only 180 days.

The Queen

With only a single queen in the colony, a colony can still expand to house thousands and thou-sands of ants in only a month. Queens can produce 3,500 eggs per day and can live up to 7 years, equaling up to 9 million eggs produced in a single’s queen’s life.

A single fire ant colony may have dozens of queens.

Male fire ants die immediately after mating with the queen.

The Colony

Fire ant colonies can contain as many as 300,000-500,000 ants. These worker ants will forage for food within a distance of about 100 yards (about the length of a football field).

Fire ant mounds can extend into the ground 20’ or deeper, with tunnels extending out 8’ in all directions. The mounds themselves can be up to 2’ high.

Heavily infested areas can contain more than 200 fire ant mounds per acre.

Potential Damage

The ant sting feels like being burned by fire, and in some people who are sensitive to the ven-om, the stings can be lethal. Hence, the nickname “fire ants.”

The FDA estimates that Americans spend more than $5 billion annually on medical treatment, damage and control of fire ants. Additionally, these pests do about $750 million in damage to agriculture, highlighting the dire need for proper pest control solutions to help manage infesta-tions.

If you are experiencing a fire ant infestation, please contact our team at Allgood Pest Solutions to see how we can use our pest control expertise to help make your yard safe and free of red ants.

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