Think the common house ant is a pain? Wait until you meet the fire ant. Known for their fiery bites and being nearly immortal, these ants are the last pests you want in your yard or home.
Before you start a war with one of the feistiest ants in town, you need learn everything you can about them.
Table of Contents
- 1. What Are Fire Ants?
- 2. What Do Fire Ants Look Like?
- 3. Red Ant Vs Fire Ant – What’s the Difference?
- 4. What Do Fire Ants Eat?
- 5. Where Do Fire Ants Live?
- 6. Do Fire Ants Have Wings?
- 7. What Does a Fire Ant Attack Feel Like?
- 8. Are Fire Ants Poisonous?
- 9. What Kills Fire Ants?
1. What Are Fire Ants?
Fire ants are ants that fall under the Solenopsis genus. They represent just a small fraction of the genus, which includes more than 200 species across the world.
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Solenopsis are a type of stinging ants, and their stings can be exceptionally painful.
Fire ant colonies may contain a single queen or multiple queens. In just a few short months, colonies can expand into the thousands.
Queens are the reproductive females in the colony, and tend to be the largest in size. They can live up to seven years, and their only purpose is reproduction. A single fire ant queen can produce 1,600 eggs per day. Some colonies have as many as 250,000 workers.
Worker fire ants live about 180 days.
On average, it takes 30 days for a fire ant to mature to adulthood.
2. What Do Fire Ants Look Like?
A mature red imported fire ant is brownish-red in color, hence their name. They have three sections: the head, the abdomen and the thorax. They have six legs and a pair of antennae just like any other ant.
Black fire ants are worker ants.
The average fire ant size is between 2 mm and 6 mm.
To get a better idea of what they look like, we recommend searching for pictures of fire ants online.
3. Red Ant Vs Fire Ant – What’s the Difference?
There is no difference between a red ant and a fire ant. Both are common names for ants in the Solenopsis genus.
Red ants get their name from their red appearance.
4. What Do Fire Ants Eat?
The red ant’s diet consists mostly of seeds and young plants, but they are considered omnivorous and will eat meat. Groups of these ants may attack small animals and kill them, such as birds, calves and rodents.
A typical diet may include: arthropod eggs, insects, ticks, earthworms, spiders and honeydew. Like other ants, they have a sweet tooth.
5. Where Do Fire Ants Live?
Like other ants, fire ants live in mounds. Fire ant mounds are large, and usually constructed out in open areas. They prefer to make their mounds near moist areas, such as pond shores, watered lawns, highway shoulders and river banks.
Nests are often invisible and built under objects, like rocks, timber, bricks and logs. When no cover is available, these ants will construct large dome-shaped mounds. Mounds can be quite large – some as high as 16”. In heavier soils, mounds can reach 1 meter in height.
Because these ants are extremely aggressive and can be territorial, they push most other species away from their habitats. Fire ants can also take parasitic advantage of bees to drive them away, including a type of orchid bee species. The bees enter the cells from underneath the nest, and rob the cell of its contents.
Fire ants can survive in extreme conditions, which makes them even more difficult to get rid of. They do not hibernate, and can survive cold conditions. The cold, however, does kill off a significant portion of the colony’s population in many cases.
6. Do Fire Ants Have Wings?
A fire ant with wings may be either a virgin ant queen or a male drone. Virgin queens have wings, but they rip them off after they mate for the first time.
Male drones also have wings. They mate with the queen, and die immediately afterward.
7. What Does a Fire Ant Attack Feel Like?
A little fire ant may look harmless, but the pain from their bites can be devastating.
Fire ants, like the southern fire ant, bite their victims to get a grip on them, and then sting from their abdomens. The sting injects a toxic venom known as Solenopsin, which is a compound from the piperidines class.
Humans experience a painful sting that feels like they’re being burned (fire ant is a fitting name). The side effects of the venom can be deadly to some people.
8. Are Fire Ants Poisonous?
Experts estimate that a fire ant bite can cause death in 5% of cases, but they are technically not considered poisonous.
Death is a caused by a severe allergic reaction to the venom. The throat may swell, and victims often suffocate to death as a result.
In one case, a woman was stung by several fire ants. The ants were brushed off, and the stings were treated with ammonia. She was found later lying on the bed unresponsive. An allergic reaction caused her brain to swell. She died the next day. Doctors say the allergic reaction caused her airways to close.
Fortunately, this type of a reaction is very rare.
Most people will experience fiery sensations and swelling at the sting site. Swelling may be significant, depending on how sensitive you are and how many times you were bit.
The swelling and stings will disappear after a few days or a week.
Fire Ant Bite Allergy Symptoms
If you experience any of the symptoms above, see a doctor immediately.
Fire ants do have one natural predator, and you can also purchase products that will kill fire ants.
In areas of the world where fire ant populations are a serious problem, phorid flies are often imported to combat these aggressive creatures. Phorid flies lay larvae on the ants, and when the larvae hatch, they consume the fire ants’ heads.
Invasive “crazy ants” can also displace fire ants in the southern U.S., but they don’t necessarily kill them. But most people would agree that they’d rather have fire ants in their yard than crazy ants (they got their name for a reason).
From ant baits to sprays, you’ll find numerous chemical solutions for getting rid of fire ants. But these are resilient creatures, and they won’t go down without a fight. Persistence and the right strategy will help you finally get rid of these pests once and for all.