Worried about fire ants? Find out what they are and what to do about them.

We know: The Facts on Fire Ants

What is a fire ant?

Fire ants are small, dark orange/brown ants which sting en mass when their mound is disturbed. There are both native fire ants in the U.S., and varieties that have been imported.

It is imported fire ants that most often become pests, because they have no natural enemies. They are thought to have been imported to the U.S. from South America.

Where do fire ants live?

Fire ants live and forage for food through a network of underground tunnels. After cool and rainy weather, fire ants expand their tunnel network by creating mounds of loose soil above their nests.

How do I know if I have imported fire ants?

Look for these characteristics:

  • Mounds of loose soil above the ground
  • More than one mound that is easily visible
  • Worker ants that are dark, small, aggressive, and sting.
  • Worker ants that, despite their varying sizes, all have head widths that do not exceed their body width.

How do I avoid being stung by fire ants?

Avoid disturbing a fire ant mound. Also, if you work in an area with fire ants, wear rubber boots and gloves covered with talc powder. If the ants get on your skin, wipe them away as fast as possible, to help avoid being stung.

What do I do if I'm stung?

  1. Apply a cold compress to relieve the swelling and pain.
  2. Gently wash the affected area with soap and water and leave the blister intact.
  3. People who are allergic to insect stings should seek medical attention immediately. On rare occasions, fire ant stings can cause severe acute allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

What should I be aware of when trying to get rid of fire ant colonies?

First, determine the species of ant that is causing your problem. If you are a farmer, you do not want to destroy a colony of ants that may be helping your ecological system. For urban dwellers, any mound of ants may be a concern, depending on the location.

If you determine that you have ants that must be eradicated, check with your local agricultural extension agent or call an exterminator to discuss various treatments. Currently, there are both chemical and non chemical solutions, and a number of different strategies for attacking the problem.

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