About Fire Ants

Fire ants are a species of ants belonging to the Solenopsis genus that can create major medical, economic, and environmental impacts. Because they are not native to the United States, they are known as imported fire ants. They were brought to the United States by mistake from South America. Fire ants are a nuisance on the landscape. Their bites leave unpleasant welts, and their mounds can quickly devastate a nice grass lawn. It's a point of safety to keep these pests under control.

In order to learn more about fireants, it is important to understand the lifestyle habits of fire ant colonies.


Fire Ants Classifications

  • Kingdom: Animalia

  • Phylum: Arthropoda

  • Class: Insecta 

  • Order: Hymenoptera 

  • Family: Formicidae

  • Subfamily: Myrmicinae 

  • Genus: Solenopsis

  • Species: Invicta


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Types of Fire Ants

These two fire ant species — red imported fire ants/ red ants (Solenopsis Invicta Buren), a black imported fire ant (Solenopsis richteri Forel) and their hybrid are invasive insects.  


Geographic Regions

Little southern fire ants, which originated in the tropical parts of South America, have been transported to the southern United States and Hawaii, where they have become a rather common insect. European fire ants have recently grown increasingly common in Canada, despite their preference for warmer regions.


Fire Ants Habitat

They enjoy moist, warm, and shady places with plenty of vegetation. Little fireants build their nests mostly under rocks, concrete cracks, leaf litter, and rotting wood. They reside in mud and leaf litter mounds and travel around the colony by digging underground tunnels. In open spaces or where there is no natural shelter, they will burrow into the ground to form colonies up to 1.5 metres deep with a 40-centimetre-high mound. Fire ants prefer to build their nests in damp locations with plenty of sunlight, such as lawns, parks, fields, and meadows.

They do, however, have the potential to colonise almost any type of soil. While the fire ant prefers sunny locations, extreme dry regions are unsuitable for the pest. Fire ants make mounds in damp, irrigated soil to establish their nests. Colonies can be found in rotting stumps and logs, as well as near tree bases. Like other ant species, fire ants are opportunistic foragers, who frequently enter homes in search of food and water. Fire ants may nest around the base of a home or building due to the availability of an indoor food source.


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Physical Features

Fire ants have six legs and are red and black in colour. That’s why they are commonly referred to as red ants and black ants in various regions. They are covered by a strong exoskeleton, like all insects. Worker ants feature a spherical head with mandibles, a thorax with armoured middle, and an abdomen with the pedicle and gaster. The hue of the head is usually copper brown. The heads and thoraxes of fire ants are yellowish-red. Their stomachs are dark in colour.


Behaviour and Ecology of Red Ants

Communication

While seeking food, fire ants are drawn to delicious plant fluids as well as human trash and litter. They are, however, known to be quite active and aggressive, and have been known to kill other insects and small animals in order to feed the colony. Any kind of intruding animal will also be stung.

Despite the myth that these red ants bite, they actually use their jaws to grip onto their prey and then sting them. The poisonous alkaloids in the sting may trigger an allergic reaction in certain people. If left untreated, a severe allergic reaction can cause severe chest discomfort, nausea, intense sweating, shortness of breath, significant swelling, slurred speech, and even lead to death in particularly sensitive people. Pain, inflammation, and pustules are the most typical reactions, which can become infectious if scratched continuously.


Reproduction

Males and females with wings (called alates) fly hundreds of feet above the earth and mate while in flight. Mating flights are most common when the temperature is between 70 and 95 degrees F, there is little wind and high humidity, and it hasn't rained in the previous 24 hours. Males die quickly after they have mated. The female comes, then tears off her wings and seeks a suitable location to form her new colony, of which she is now queen.

Predators such as spiders, lizards, dragonflies, other ants, and ground beetles consume many newly mated fire ant queens. Those queens who make it dig little chambers in the dirt and lay about 25 eggs. The queen feeds these eggs with energy from her digested wing muscles and cannibalised eggs when they hatch. She never returns to the colony.


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These developing ants emerge as small worker ants called minims after a month or two. The queen and developing ants are cared for by these early worker ants. As the colony grows in size, visible mounds develop above the turf surface, usually within a few months.

A queen fire ant can lay fertile or unfertilized eggs using sperm she has stored in her body since mating. Winged male fire ants develop from unfertilized eggs. Fertilized eggs can either become sterile female worker ants or fertile winged females.


Life Cycle

  • Fire ants have three developmental stages: eggs, larvae, and pupae (collectively referred to as brood).

  • Eggs are spherical in shape and creamy white in colour.

  • Legless, cream-coloured larvae with prominent head capsules seem like grubs.

  • Pupae look like worker ants and are creamy-white at first, but darken when adult ants emerge.

  • When fire ant larvae are fed more, they develop into winged females rather than workers. Winged fire ants, also known as winged sexual reproductives, are produced all year but they are most prevalent in the spring (April through June). VIDEO: Male and female winged sexual reproductive ants

  • Monogyne fire ant colonies (single queen colonies) have a single viable queen that lays all of the colony's eggs.

  • Polygyne colonies (multiple queen fire ant colonies) feature multiple viable queens who share egg laying and colony leadership.

  • Pheromones are substances secreted by the queen that have an effect on the colony.


Roles Inside The Fire Ant Colony

In a colony, there are three types of ants: the queen, female workers, and the males. The workers do not have wings, although the queen and males do. Only the queen ant has the ability to lay eggs. The job of the male ant is to mate with future queen ants, and they don't live long after that. The queen, once she reaches adulthood, spends the remainder of her life laying eggs! A colony may have one queen or numerous queens, depending on the species.

Soldier ants defend the queen, protect the colony, harvest or kill food, and assault enemy colonies in pursuit of food and nesting space in ant colonies. They collect the eggs of the defeated ant colony if they defeat another ant colony. When the eggs hatch, the new ants become the colony's slave ants. The colony's responsibilities include caring for the eggs and young, finding food for the colony, and constructing anthills or mounds. Worker ants are another name for them.

In addition, there are two types of ants: 1) nurse ants and 2) older worker ants.

  1. Nurse ants are the younger workers who care for and transport the queen and her offspring.

  2. Older labourers serve as reserves for the colony's defence, as well as for the construction and maintenance of the mound. The oldest workers' ants are also turned into foragers.


Food Habits

Workers forage for food in the morning and in the evening. Plants, microscopic creatures, invertebrates and vertebrates, such reptiles, birds and mammals, form part of fire ant feeding preferences. Scavengers bring back the bounty to the nest for distribution across the colony: queens, larvae, and other workers.

Fire ants are omnivores, meaning they eat everything. To meet their nutritional requirements, they consume both plants and animals. Carbohydrates (sugars), lipids (fats), and protein are all on the menu. Because worker ants can't eat solid food particles larger than 2 microns (1 micron = 0.000039 of an inch), they rely on liquids to survive. Only the fourth instar of the fire ant larva can transform solid food particles into a liquid, which is then supplied to the rest of the colony.


Predators of Fireants

When given the chance, armadillos, antlions, spiders, birds, and horned lizards have been observed to consume fire ants, but they are not known to have a significant impact on imported fire ant populations.


Fire Ants and Humans

Fire ants aren't terrified to take on humans, and their sting is as terrible as being burned by fire. The poisonous alkaloids carried by the sting produce pain, inflammation, and pustules that can develop infectious if scratched.

Fire ant stings can produce a severe allergic reaction in sensitive people, resulting in severe chest discomfort, nausea, excessive sweating, loss of breath, significant edoema, slurred speech, and death if not treated.


How to Control Fire Ants?

A professional pest control service is recommended for dealing with small fire ants. Several queens live in each small fire ant colony. And each of these queens is capable of depositing additional eggs to replace any ants lost as a result of human control efforts. Damaged small fire ant colonies can regenerate fast if they are not completely eliminated. Furthermore, because small fire ants are omnivores, eradicating their numerous food sources can be difficult. Homeowners can, however, take the following steps to assist prevent small fire ants from colonising their property:

  • Remove any stacks of timber, bricks, or other trash from your land since they could serve as a nesting location for ants.

  • To help remove the ant access points to your property, trim back any landscaping so that at least 12 inches of clearance exists between it and your home's foundation.

  • To help prevent ant access points into your home, seal as many cracks on the exterior of your property as feasible.

  • Regularly inspect your exterior electrical fixtures, such as any transformer boxes linked to your HVAC system, for corrosion and other damage caused by fire ants.

  • Keep tree branches trimmed to keep them from touching your home's roof, soffits, and gutters, and to help reduce ant access places.


Interesting Facts

  • A fire ant queen can live for up to seven years and lay up to 1,000 eggs every day.

  • Up to 400,000 infertile female worker ants might be found in a mature colony.

  • An ant has the ability to lift 20 times its own weight.

  • Ants leave a scent trail when foraging to keep track of where they've been.

  • When queen ants establish a new nest, they shed their wings.

  • Ants don't have lungs, hence they can't breathe. Oxygen enters the body through microscopic holes, and carbon dioxide exits through the same holes.


Conclusion

Red imported fire ants usually build their nests in open, warm, sunny settings, such as open fields and lawns. Their nests can also be found in the dirt around the foundations of buildings or landscaping. Red imported fire ants construct unusual sandy nests that resemble a big flattened mound with no hole at the top, measuring between two and four square feet in size. As they seek food, you may notice the small red workers moving around your home and property. It can be difficult to keep red imported fire ants under control. These ants can be tough to exterminate since their colonies can grow to be so huge. You must contact the pest control company in order to get rid of them. 

FAQs on Fire Ant

1. Why Do Fire Ants Bite?

Ans: When disturbed or threatened, fire ants, like other insects, bite and sting. The hated ant species dwell in underground nests that are fiercely guarded by insects. Fire ant nests have a characteristic mound that pushes upwards, causing the ground surface to bulge considerably. Humans and other animals who step on the mound unknowingly are frequently attacked by fire ants. Fire ant nests usually feature tunnels just beneath the surface of the earth, in addition to the visible mound. Passers-by walking on the ground directly above the tunnels are frequently attacked by the aggressive insects as they depart the nest.

2. What are the Symptoms of a Fire Ant Bite?

Ans: Although fire ant bites can be lethal to many tiny animals, they usually only cause minor irritation in people. The venom of the sting causes the unpleasant burning feeling that the fire ant is named for. Itching, redness, and swelling at the wound site are all possible early symptoms. The blister termed a pustule, which contains fluid and appears between six hours to a day after the sting occurs is the most noticeable sign of a fire ant bite. The pustules usually go away within a week or two, although they may leave scabs or scars that last another three to ten days.


While most individuals experience very minor symptoms as a result of fire ant bites, some people have more severe reactions. People who are extremely allergic to the venom may have trouble breathing, a racing heart, throat swelling, nausea, vomiting, and shock.

3. What Preys on Fire Ants?

Ans: Anteaters, armadillos, several spider species, birds, antlions, and phorid flies are among the animals that eat fire ants.

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