Five W’s and an H About Fire Ants
December 5, 2016
What types of fire ants are in Florida?
There are two types of fire ants in Florida: Solenopsis invicta and Solenopsis geminita. Solenopsis invicta, also known as the red imported fire ant, is the more notorious of the two, while Solenopsis geminata is the tropical or native fire ant. As the name suggests, RIFA ants were imported into the United States so they are not a native species to Florida or anywhere in the U.S. for that matter. Originally, RIFA was brought over to Alabama on a cargo ship by mistake sometime between 1933 and 1945 and the population has bloomed ever since. Fire ants are very aggressive and will sting anyone or anything that intrudes upon their nests.
What do fire ants eat?
Fire ants are omnivores, which mean they eat animal and plant based food sources. A fire ant’s diet includes, but is not limited to, insects, earthworms, ticks, spiders, arthropod eggs, and honeydew. Fire ants are also known to eat meats and greasy and sweet things.
Who do fire ants affect?
The simple answer is that fire ants can affect everyone! Fire ants do not discriminate; they sting everyone. Fire ant stings are painful for most people and can even be fatal. Fire ants are very protective of their nests, so staying away from their nests is the best way to avoid their nasty stings.
When are fire ants most active?
Fire ants become more active in the spring and the summer. They thrive in warm, sunny conditions so the Southeast of the United States is a perfect place for them. They also like the Midwest and Southwest due to the year round warmer temperatures. During the winter, in places where it gets cold enough, fire ant populations are lowered substantially because the cold weather kills them off. As the temperature begins to warm up, they grow in numbers, so start to watch out for more of their pesky dirt mounds.
Where are fire ants found?
Fire ants are found all over the U.S. and Australia. They have also been reported in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Singapore. These ants are so bad that there were operations in New Zealand and China to eradicate the species in those countries. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, as of August 2008 Florida does have an established population of fire ants. Also, because they like warm and sunny conditions, places like the South and Southwest of the United States are perfect places for fire ants to thrive since it is warm almost all year round.
Why should you be concerned?
First of all, a common misperception is that fire ants only bite their victims and that’s where the pain and red bumps come from, but actually fire ants have stingers that cause the most pain and the red bumps. Their stingers contain alkaloid venom, which is highly irritating to humans, and can cause red bumps with white pustules. The sting of a fire ant can be described as a stinging or intense burning sensation. Fire ants can sting their victims multiple times. Fire ants attack anything that disturbs their nests by grasping onto the disturbance with their jaws and then stinging and injecting their venom. For the majority of the population, these bites hurt a lot and they’ll itch, but are not that dangerous. However, some people may have an allergic reaction to the poison in the sting causing much more severe reactions. People who are allergic to the venom will suffer from nausea, shock, chest pain and, in rare cases, coma. If an individual, who is allergic to the venom, is stung by a fire ant, they should seek immediate medical attention.
How can I get rid of them?
Fire ants are very hard to permanently get rid of. Most people can only try to prevent fire ants from infesting their yard. There are a variety of do-it-yourself methods such as sprinkling ant poison around your house. However, if you want an easy and effective solution, call a professional from Nozzle Nolen. They offer several different pest control options for fire ants. The first is Broadcast Bait Application. With this option they place bait around the yard where the worker ants will find the bait, take it back to the colony so the rest of the colony will then feed on it leading to extermination. This method is less expensive than other methods, can control fire ants for a longer time and poses very little threat to humans, pets, wildlife and the environment. The next option is individual mound treatments. This treatment works best with small infestations since this treatment only works if it actually touches the ants. The final option is a combination of both barrier and spot treatments.
Collins, L. (2013). Red Imported Fire Ant.
National Park Service. (n.d.). Fire Ants. National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/fosm/learn/nature/fire-ants.htm
Nozzle Nolen. (n.d.). Fire Ant Control. Nozzle Nolen: http://www.nozzlenolen.com/fire-ant-control
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