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Imported Fire Ants

flamin' ant

IMPORTED FIRE ANT: (Solenopsis invicta or Solenopsis wagneri)

Description:
Fire Ants are small, less than a quarter of an inch long, and look similar to normal house or garden ants so it is easy to confuse this species with common native ants. Fire Ants are coppery-brown to black and live in underground colonies. The colonies consist of extensive underground tunnels with only a dirt mound, otherwise known as a nest mound, often visible above the surface. The nest mounds have no visible entry exit holes on top of them. It’s interesting to note that nest mounds are not always evident.

Fire Ants are usually found in open areas like lawns, landscaping, fields, and along pathways or under objects laying on the ground like boards, rocks, pavers and bricks. Fire Ants can also establish colonies under sidewalks and roads.

Biology:
Fire Ants are not native to southern California and have been imported since the early 1920’s. These invasive and destructive ants have slowly migrated through most of the southern United States. All wingless Fire Ants are sterile female workers. The winged variants, otherwise known as reproductives, live in the nest mound and swarm twice a year, usually in the afternoon soon after rain. Swarming is most common in the spring and fall. Fire Ants are particularly aggressive, especially near their nest, fast and venomous. Most people have mild reactions to bites from Fire Ants but a small number of people sensitive to the venom can experience serious swelling or allergic reactions.

Did You Know?

During a flood, Fire Ants will link together to form a living raft. At the first sign of water damage these ants will evacuate their eggs from the nest and cling together as a group for safety helping them survive and spread to new areas.

Impact:
Fire Ants pose a serious threat to people and property. They can cause significant damage to plants in irrigated landscapes and are especially destructive to turf grass. Their nest mounds can even cause damage to mowing equipment. Fire Ants have been known to collect in large numbers in electrical panels and equipment causing expensive property wide shutdowns. These ants also nest in urban structures such as walls, offices and homes. Building invasions can threaten the occupants, especially children and the elderly. Invasions typically happen during heavy rain and flooding.

Fire Ants can cause short circuits and fires in electrical systems and damage breakers, relays, motors, and other electrical devices. Fire Ants are attracted by the electrical currents and have caused considerable damage to heat pumps, air conditioners, telephone boxes, transformers, switches, and much more! It's unknown exactly why they're attracted to electronics, but some scientists believe it's from the magnetic field or heat production that attracts them.

Solutions:
A pest professional should be contacted to deal with Fire Ants who will use a combination of integrated pest management techniques to prevent and eradicate this serious pest. The best step to take is to contact a pest management service for regular thorough inspections in order to prevent the establishment of Imported Fire Ant colonies.

Additional Links:

http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7487.html