Red Ants

Latin Name:

Solenopsis

Appearance:

Reddish, about 1/4-inch long.

Habit:

Nest in mounds of 1 to 2 feet in diameter and about 1/2-foot high. Large colonies can have up to 250,000 workers. Very active and aggressive, they will sting any intruding animal repeatedly.

Diet:

Omnivorous. Known to eat meats, greasy and sweet materials.

Reproduction:

Total time from egg to adult averages 30 days; workers live up to 180 days; queens live two to six years.

Fire Ant Facts

Though not a native species in North America, the red imported fire ant has become a common nuisance throughout the southern United States such as Florida and Georgia. The Solenopsis invicta, or red imported fire ant, was brought into the United States in the 1930′s via a shipment of cargo. Initially transplanted into Alabama, they have spread and thrived throughout the southern states with the warm climate and lack of predators. They have been found as far west as California and as far north as Maryland.

Fire ants favor warm, sunny conditions. They prefer dry fields and avoid shady areas such as woods. Their mounds can grow up to 24 inches in diameter and 18 inches high. These colonies can contain several hundred thousand ants, including at least one queen.

When attacking, fire ants first use their mandibles to attach themselves to their prey, and then inject venom through the stinger. Fire ant stings are painful for most humans and fatal to some: if a victim experiences a severe reaction such as sweating, nausea or excessive itching, emergency medical services should be contacted immediately. Most sting victims experience painful red bumps: a topical antihistamine and a cold compress may help in soothing fire ant stings. Their sting, which includes alkaloid venom, is highly irritating to humans and results in red bumps and white pustules, which can ultimately lead to scarring. The sensation of a fire ant burn has been described as “stinging” and “intense burning,” and fire ants are known to attack potential threats or prey in large numbers. A fire ant colony may contain 100,000 to 500,000 insects, thus increasing the likelihood that multiple stings will be inflicted.

More in this category: « Hornets Skunks »