Fire Ant Overview
Fire ants are one of the most severe insects that ever occurred in the United States. They are believed to arrive from shipped agricultural goods from an infested country. This insect is most common in South America but is not found at all in North America. Nevertheless, fire ants can be found anywhere in any country. They can be harmful to people, animals and crops not to mention their ability to destroy the whole ecosystem.
Appearance, Habitat & Behavior
Fire ants are very small with only 2-6 mm length; however, there is a variation of size in one nest. They have a reddish brown head, darker abdomen, an elbow-shaped antenna with 10 segments, and 3 pairs of legs.
Several ant species create a nest with entrance and exit holes but fire ants build theirs without a single hole. Their nest is characterized by a round shaped dirt formation on the ground that can be either soft or hard and mostly found in the garden, around tree logs and rocks.
Fire ants are defensive and aggressive when it comes to their nest. When their nest is suddenly hit, they move out and attack everything near them. They can sting an individual repeatedly. Stings from these ants can cause an itchy red spot to form and a burning sensation.
Photo Credit Wikipedia Commons
A mature colony produces female and male alates. They mate in flight and the male alates die after. Female alates will start a new colony when a suitable nest is found. This new queen will lay 10-20 eggs within the first 24 hours and the eggs hatch after 6-10 days. The larvae go through 4 instars within 2 weeks or less before turning into pupae. After 9-16 days, new ants emerge as workers. The development from being an egg to ant can take a month to complete. The queen continues to lay eggs which are taken care of by the new workers. Queen can lay up to 800 eggs and with 7 years of life, she can have more than a hundred thousand workers.
Damages & Injury
Fire ants feed on fauna such as spiders, lizards, bird, frog and mammals. Their nest could be a big problem on lawns while feeding on seeds and tunnelling through the plant stem can cause serious damages. Fire ants also attack people, leaving them with red pustules and pain. The worst possible problems they can cause is destroying irrigation and harvesting equipment as well as attacking newborn animals by stinging their eyes that can lead to blindness.
When you see a fire ant nest, keep distance because this insect is capable of hurting humans. Consult a pest management professional for the control methods you can do to eliminate them in your yard.