What do fire ants look like?
- Size: 1/8-1/4 inch length (can have larger reproductive and smaller workers).
- Two nodes on the thorax (this differs from one-node ants such as carpenter ants, odorous house ants, and crazy ants.
- Males are black, but not commonly seen—except during mating or swarms.
What are the habits of fire ants?
- Worker fire ants’ primary role is to protect the queen.
- They feed her regurgitated food in an effort to protect her and prevent danger.
- Fire ant queens can live up to seven years (workers only about 1-1.5 months).
- New colonies are established following the mating of queen ants with males—where the males die during this process.
- The queen ant flies or moves to the areas in which she sheds her wings and initially lays 10-12 eggs. Then, she subsequently lays up to 800 eggs per day—establishing a colony of 100,000-500,000 colony members.
- Fire ants create large nesting mounds and are hyper-responsive to disturbances.
- Rain or heavy periods of moisture can tamp-down the mounds and cause them to evolve into smaller mounds as the ants work to escape saturated soil.
- Fire ants are most active during late spring-early fall.
What are the dangers of fire ants?
- If disturbed, kicked, or stepped on—fire ants will assemble quickly and rush out of their mounds to attack perpetrators—undoubtedly inflicting painful stings.
- Children are often tempted to disturb fire ant mounds as a function of curiosity—but this practice may have severe consequences.
- Because of the accelerated speed at which fire ants emerge from disturbed nests, they attack in large numbers, inflict immediate, painful, and repeated stings all the while latching onto the skin as a function of this process.
- Ants should be brushed off instead of shaken off as they are experts in gripping skin.
- Small, raised, reddish pastules or bumps develop at stinger sites.
- While these pastules are sterile, they are prone to secondary infection as a function of scratching and subsequently introducing bacteria.
- Pets such as outdoor cats and dogs are also prone to fire ant stings and if attacked, fire ants should be brushed away from their bodies and fur.
How do you kill fire ants?
- While granular baits, dust and liquid baits are available (and do have their place) in treating fire ants, they are slower to work than an immediate colony/nest injection with a liquid insecticide—that will mount an immediate response to treatment.
- Granular baits are tainted food sources that workers will share with other members of the colony and while effective, take time to work.
- Granular baits should be sprinkled several times per year and used as an adjunct to identified nest treatment to provide longer-term protection of yards, landscaped areas, and locations where fire ant colonies are likely to form.
- Baits hold up better to moisture versus dust—which can break down easily.
- While both repellent and non-repellent liquid insecticides can be used if/when a fire ant nest is located, the pros at Innotech Pest Management of North Florida prefer the use of non-repellant insecticides such as Phantom or Termidor.
If you are wondering “How do I get rid of fire ants,” call a professional pest control professional to discuss safe and effective options for fire ant elimination.