The red imported fire ant is a dangerous ant species. With its strong mandibles and sting, it has the ability to give multiple stings to any victim. We explore various facts concerning it including its habitat, origin, control and lifecycle.
Red Imported Fire Ants
There are two species of fire ants in the US; the native or tropical red ant and Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA) which is the most notorious. RIFA is a native species of South America but is currently found in different parts of the globe. It is always important to distinguish these two species when trying to control an infestation.
The pedicel of the ants consist of two segments. They vary in size depending on the designation of the ants. The worker ants tend to be smaller than the queen ants. Their mandibles have four teeth. They also have an antennae which is segmented 10 times. It ends in a club that has two segments. At the end of the baster is a sting which is used to inject venom during attacks. Their body color normally lies between red and brown.
Their mounds are built on soil and that contains worker ants, males and the queen ants. The workers are responsible for normal running of the nest and their duties include nursing, protecting the colony and foraging. The queens mate with the swarmers and spend the rest of their life laying eggs. Once the males have mated, they tend to die soon after. When it is disturbed the ants will emerge ready to aggressively attack the intruder. This is done through bites and stings. The attacks may result in white pustules that are quite painful and itchy when a human being is stung. In other cases, allergic reactions may be established.
One major distinguishing factor between the tropical and imported red fire ants is the ratio between the small and large worker ants. While the other species have many small ants compared to the larger ones, the situation is reversed with them. You are likely to experience half as many large ants as are the small ones.
Imported red fire ants live in colonies of up to 500 000 individual ants. The queen is capable of laying between 1500 and 5000 eggs each day. Once she has mated, she does not leave the colony and can live in the nest for many years to come.
The RIFA is such a threat when it strikes. They are extremely destructive and will dominate areas surrounding their nests due to their existence in large numbers. The fact that they have an almost inexistent lot of natural enemies makes them result in population rise in the areas they infest.
The ants are capable of altering the ecological composition of areas they invade. They tend to eliminate the native fire ant species and also compete with other animals for water and food. They feed on the young ones as well as eggs for reptiles and birds thus altering in a great way the population of their prey. Ground nesting species are easily eliminated by these ants. The same applies to small mammals new ones. Due to lack of documentation, it is possible that the actual effects of the ants on animal populations could be underestimated.
What Are Red Imported Fire Ants
The red imported fire ant is an ant from South America that is reddish brown. It is one of the many species of fire ants. The ants are small and aggressive. During attacks, they inject into the victim some alkaloid venom as they sting. A high number of people suffering from their attack require emergency medical attention.
The ants live in mounds which when disturbed will quickly emerge ready to attack. They use their mandibles to grab the skin of the victim as they sting them. One ant has the ability to inflict multiple stings. There is a high coordination of the attack and the ants tend to attack in unison. This leads to multiple attacks from different ants which could be serious. This is done by worker ants responsible for protecting the colony.
Red Imported Fire Ant Origin
The red imported fire ant is native to the South America. The ants were brought into the United States in the early 2oth century. Invasions normally occur through bee colonies, nursery stocks, trucks and trailers. Their spreading towards the north They currently occupy large areas here and can be found in various states including Texas, North Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, California and Oklahoma. The ants can travel long over flooded areas. As a result areas with seasonal flooding are likely to experience natural dispersal.
Red Imported Fire Ant Facts
When it comes to the control of ants, it is important to have as much information as possible. This helps in studying their characteristics and behavior which are important in controlling the ants. We explore some facts about the red imported fire ants below.
- The ants entered the United States in Alabama but currently cover a lot of states.
- The migration of fire ants to the north is likely to be limited due to the cold temperatures that tend to freeze the soil deep enough to affect the fire ant colonies.
- Other than the red imported fire ants, there also are black imported fire ants which are qite similar in behavior and characteristics.
- The fire ants live together in the soil in colonies that are very large and which could contain more than 200 000 ants.
- Majority of the colony members are infertile females who serve as worker ants.
- The ants vary in size
- All ant have the ability to sting.
- In most cases, there is only one queen per colony whose work is to lay eggs throughout their life after they have mated.
- The fire ants go through a complete metamorphosis with their life cycle starting with the laying of eggs which hatch to larvae. These develop into pupae and later mature to adults.
- The ants are omnivorous and feed on a wide variety of items
- The ant mounds do not have an exit on top and therefore the worker ants exit using underground tunnels.
- The adult ants and first to third instar larvae cannot swallow solid food. They feed after it has been liquefied by fourth instar larvae. The adults also feed the young ones from this.
- The spread of invasions is through swarming of the ants. This occurs when a reproductive group of ants fly away exiting the mound to mate. Once they are done they lose their wings, the males die soon after while the females remain to live as queens for the rest of their live. They establish new colonies elsewhere where they lay eggs for the rest of their lives.
Red Imported Fire Ant Habitat
Red imported fire ants live in their nests. These can be seen in the form of mounds which are normally visible before the ants. These tend to be dome shaped large mounds. When they show up in someone’s field, they tend to look like some heap of soil piled up. The mounds could have galleries beneath the ground extending far. They are connected beneath using tunnels that make up a weather proof nest.
The tunnels act as air conditioners when there is too much heat. When it is cold, heat sinks in keeping them warm. The mounds are elevated well enough to provide refuge when it is flooding. In some areas though, these mounds could be flat and appear non-existent. This is not to mean that they are not around.
Generally, fire ants tend to construct mounds in those areas that are open and therefore exposed to the sun. Very rarely will they be found in woods or locations with tree canopies. Since they also ove the urban areas, here they are found nesting in yards, fields cemeteries, parks, and concrete slabs. Thy have also been observed in vehicles, sidewalks and roadways. Electrical currents attract them and this is the reason why they are also seen around heat pipes, traffic lights and other such devices. In some cases, they could cause electrical fires as they chew the wiring.
Red Imported Fire Ant Invasive Species
From USDA’s National Invasive Species Information Center.
The United States Department of Agriculture lists the red imported fire ant as an invasive species [Source: invasivespeciesinfo.gov]. The ant is native to South America and was introduced to the United States in the 1930s. Its invasion could lead to painful attacks in the form of multiple bites and stings to pets, human beings and livestock.
The fact that these ants have limited natural enemies keeps them thriving. They can easily develop into large colonies and even start budding. To manage them, it is best to call in professionals for extermination as their attacks could cause severe reactions in some people.
Red Imported Fire Ant Control
Due to their ability to give victims multiple stings, the red fire ants are a species that most people would want to keep off their property. In some states, this ant is quarantined. Contacting the state agricultural officers will ensure that help is offered to control them. Where this is not possible, there are professional baits that can be stationed in areas of invasion for their elimination. It is always important to let this be done by professionals to avoid attacks.
Red Imported Fire Ant Life Cycle
The red imported fire ant has a life cycle similar to most ants. The queen lays eggs which form the first stage. After this they hatch into larvae which later develops into pupae. The last stage is an adult ant. Other than the individual ants’ life cycle, there also is the life of the colony. This grows as the queen red imported fire ant lays eggs. The growth is quite fast at times.
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