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10 Interesting Facts About Fire Ants (Pictures)

Even though fire ants are not a native North American insect, these bugs are a common site in the United States. They were unintentionally brought to the area, and have been able to thrive in various habitats. Despite how common they are, most people don’t know that much about these creatures.

10 Facts About Fire Ants

These facts about fire ants will provide some interesting insight into these invasive insects.

1. The Fire Ant’s Scientific and Common Names

The fire ants frequently seen in regions of North America are referred to as imported fire ants because of how they were brought over to the continent.

The scientific name for these red fire ants are Solenopsis invicta Buren or S. richteri Forel. However, many people who come across this insect just refer to it as a fire ant.

2. Their Size and Color

Fire ants can be black or red, but the red ants are more easily recognizable. Red fire ants appear reddish brown or rusty. They can reach between ⅛ and ⅜ of an inch, and are bigger than many of the other common ant species in North America. Their bodies are segmented, with six legs and antennae on their heads.

Fire ants battle
Fire ants battle | Image by ralflin from Pixabay

3. Where Fire Ants Can Be Found

These painful ants known as fire ants can be found throughout the southern regions of the United States. They can be found from Maryland to Texas and California to New Mexico.

These insects can thrive in the warmer environments of these regions. Other states where people frequently run into fire ants include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee.

4. How Fire Ants Arrive in the United States

Even though fire ants can be found in many regions of the United States, they are not native insects. They are called imported fire ants because they were unintentionally brought into the country.

Red and black fire ants came over from South America about a hundred years ago, but it is not clear exactly how. The best guess is that these bugs were in the soil being used as ballast in the cargo ships that were going back and forth.

They can move from one habitat to the next naturally, or by hitching rides on bay bales, potted plants, and similar outdoor objects.

Fire ants carrying dead insect
Fire ants carrying dead insect | Image by ralflin from Pixabay

5. Fire Ants Have Large Mounds

It is easy to spot a fire ant mound because of how large they typically are, and one who has accidentally stepped into one of these mounds is sure to know instantly.

These ants are quick to go after any possible threats. A fire ant mound can be between two and four square feet, with tunnels that also go under the ground’s surface.

These habitats are usually irregular in size, and can be found in various types of outdoor areas. Fire ants are commonly found in mounds near buildings, construction sites, and other types of structures.

While these insects are mostly found outside, they have been known to entire houses, which is when they can become a major issue.

Fire ant mound
Fire ant mound | image by Alex Wild via Wikimedia Commons

6. They’re Quick to Attack

Fire ants are quick to attack anything that they think could be a threat. They will immediately sting anyone or anything that gets too close to them or their homes.

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Typically, people will get stung by more than one ant at a time, especially if they have disturbed the nest in some way. Single ants will also repeatedly sting.

These ants, and their quickness to attack, can become an issue if they build nests near homes or in fields where people need to work. These ants can be found outside of their nests too and will be just as quick to attack any threats.

7. They Have Painful Stings

Fire ants have extremely painful stings, but they are not usually deadly. In rare cases, a fire ant sting can be fatal, but those cases are typically seen in people who experience an allergic reaction.

These ants will leave behind a raised welt at the site of the sting. Young animals, especially newborns, are more likely to experience death from fire ant venom.

Fire ants sting
Fire ant stings | image by Bart Everson via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

8. You Can Treat Stings

After a fire ant has stung you, you will want to immediately start treating the area to lessen the severity of pain and other symptoms. The first thing to do is brush off the ant, because they will latch on and sting as many times as possible before being knocked off.

The less this bug has a chance to sting you the better. It is not the actual stinging that hurts, but the injecting of the ant’s venom that causes pain. After knocking off the fire ant, the area should be washed with cold water and soap.

Oral antihistamines, as well as hydrocortisone cream, can be useful in treating many of the unpleasant symptoms. Cold compresses can also relieve some of the swelling and pain.

9. How to Prevent Fire Ant Stings

There are a few ways that people can try to avoid being bitten by fire ants, from always wearing shoes outside to steering clear of any fire ant nests.

Insect repellent, in addition to long pants and long-sleeved shirts, can be extremely helpful in avoiding a painful fire ant sting. If there are fire ant nests on your property that you want to get rid of then you will need to turn to pest control specialists.

10. Fire Ants Are Considered Pests

While fire ants can be annoying for people, they are also considered a pest species. Their mounds often displace native ants and destroy their environments.

These bugs frequently destroy food sources for people and wildlife. Crops at risk around these bugs include corn, okra, soybean, and citrus.

Conclusion

Fire ants are painful, yet interesting insects that people in Southern areas of North America frequently come across. While not dangerous to people or most other animals, these ants can wreak havoc on the environments they live in.