Adult red imported fire ants are reddish to dark brown. They are “polymorphic,” meaning that a colony will contain ants of different sizes ranging from 1/16” to 3/16”. The workers perform different jobs such as tending the queen and “brood,” maintaining the nest, and gathering food. Some of the workers serve as “soldiers” which protect the colony. At certain times of the year (mostly spring and summer), you will find winged males (hich are small and black in color) and winged females (about 1/3-inch long).
THEY WILL ATTACK YOU
Fire ants are small but highly aggressive. They inject a necrotizing, alkaloid venom when they sting. The stings result in painful, itchy, and persistent pustules, and sometimes in severe allergic reactions. Five million people are stung each year in the southeastern United States. About 25,000 of these people require medical consultation. When a fire ant mound is disturbed, workers boil to the surface, run up any legs, arms, etc., in the vicinity, grab the victim’s skin in their mandibles and sting synchronously in response to the slightest movement. The attacks are coordinated and dozens or even hundreds of workers sting in unison.
Fire ants live in colonies that may have 100,000 to 500,000 ants. The queen of the colony can lay from 1500 to 5000 eggs per day, never leaves the nest and can live for many years. Worker ants take care of the queen and her eggs, build the nest, defend the colony, and find food. Preferred food of fire ants consists of protein-rich sources such as insects and seeds. Winged male and female ants fly from the colony in the spring and summer to mate in the air. The males die and the females become queens that start new colonies.
OFTEN COME INDOORS
While fire ants are typically an outdoor problem, disturbances during/after severe weather may bring them indoors in search of food or even “dry land” and, unfortunately, into closer contact with people. Worker ants forage for nearby food sources by traveling through underground tunnels that extend out from the mound and then onto the soil surface.
Here are some suggestions to follow if you find fire ants in your area:
- Watch where you step when clearing debris in yards.
- When eating outside, keep all food and drinks covered while they are not being eaten.
- Dispose of food in garbage bags and trashcans.
- Keep trashcans covered and, preferably, away from your house.
- Indoors, do not leave food exposed on tables, counter tops, or floors (in the case of dry pet foods).
- Keep shrubs and other vegetation pruned away from buildings so that ants can’t use them as a “bridge” to avoid treated areas.
Give us a call—The crew here at ClearDefense Pest Control will love to treat your property and help you control these little mobile fire bombs!
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