Fire Ants at a Glance
Who: Fire Ant (Solenopsis)
What: Variety of small, reddish brown stinging ants.
When: Year-round, mounds common after rain.
Where: Currently widespread across the globe; certain species are spread via ship cargo.
Prevention: Remove debris (wood, building material) stored next to your home and cut back plant material.
The Fire Ant
Colonies are formed when a new queen or queens leaves the current colony. A single queen may live six years, producing 3500 eggs each day and rapidly creating a fully functioning colony. Males and sterile female workers are also found in the colony, with life spans ranging from four days (males) to one month (workers).
Fire ant species are found throughout the globe, with certain species being unintentionally transported to new countries via ship cargo. A typical colony will produce a large mound in open areas, most often near moisture such as a river bank or watered lawn. Fire ant colonies can be found under logs, shrubs, rocks or bricks, in which case the classic mound will not be visible.
The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta), as it is known in the United States (RIFA) in considered an invasive pest species from South America. Accidentally imported in Alabama from a South American cargo ship in the 1930s, the ant now calls a majority of the Southern and Southwestern United States home.
Fire Ants in Arkansas
Arkansas is home to one fire ant species, the so-called red imported fire ant that is not native to the state. It is considered an invasive, unwanted pest with no natural predators. Although they will occasionally enter homes or other buildings through cracks or holes in foundations or walls, the fire ant is more commonly a yard or landscape pest, creating large, ugly mounds outside. These ants are extremely aggressive and will attack animals or people that disturb their nests (either intentionally or not), quickly swarming arms and legs (or paws, etc.) if you are not careful. An extensive array of pesticides and bait are now used to try to get rid of the fire ant.
The map above shows the extent of fire ants in the United States; they are expected to continue moving upwards, eventually spreading across the entire state. For more information about fire ants, try the University of Arkansas’ publication called Twenty Questions about Fire Ants (PDF format).
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