Fire Ants

Red Imported Fire Ants

Several fire ant species live in the United States, some of native origin and others introduced from other parts of the world. They include the black imported fire ant, the red imported fire ant, the tropical fire ant and the southern fire ant. The Southern Fire ant is a native to North America but the red imported fire ant is originally from South America.

The red imported fire ants is by far the most significant pest because of its aggressive nature and potentially deadly sting. These ants originated in the lowlands of Brazil and came to the United Stated through imported soil between 1933 and 1945 through the port of Mobile, Alabama. They have spread to other parts of Alabama, as well as Arkansas, California, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. They can potentially spread anywhere that average minimum temperatures are above 10 degrees Fahrenheit and annual rainfall is greater than 10 inches -  or in irrigated areas. Federal quarantines have been put in place at times to restrict the movement of infested materials such as soil, sod, potted plants and hay to uninfested areas.


By far the most notable characteristic of red fire ants is their stinging behavior. People, pets and other animals unknowingly disturb heir mounds and are quickly covered with stinging ants. Over 40 million people live in areas infested by the red imported fire ant in the Southeastern United States. An estimated 14 million people are stung annually. Deaths have occurred either from allergic reactions to the venom or when people are stung multiple times and don’t quickly receive medical aid.

The venom of red imported fire ants is unique in the insect world because it produces an immediate and painful stinging, burning sensation. Later, white pustules will form on the skin at the site of the sting.  They appear an almost uniform dark reddish-brown in color, but closer inspection reveals a darker shiny gaster (stomach). People often recognize red imported fire ants simply by the dome-shaped mounds they build and the protective behavior of workers, who will pour out of mounds if they are disturbed, and will attack intruders.


Just like all the other ants, the life cycle of red imported fire ants includes egg, larval, pupal and adult stages - known as complete metamorphosis. New queens land, lose their wings and typically tunnel into soil to start new colonies. Sometimes many queens can be seen clustered together in cracks and crevices on the ground or under objects before starting their nests. A typical nest is a dome-shaped mound sometimes as large as 18 inches tall and two feet in diameter, although mound structure will vary somewhat by soil type. Some nests may have no obvious mound, such as those in mulched areas. Sometimes, the tops of mounds are removed by lawn mowers. Queens may also land on buildings with flat roofs (sometimes many stories high) and start colonies that infest the building from the top down. Indoor nests may be in wall voids, bath traps, under carpets and in crawl spaces. Queens can lay hundreds of eggs a day and a mature colony containing 200,000 to 300,000 workers can develop within a year or two.


Red imported fire ants may quickly move their whole colony if conditions are unfavorable or if the mound is disturbed. It is not uncommon to see mounds pop up within a few feet of a mound that was poorly treated with ineffective insecticide or pesticide. Red fire ants are voracious foragers that exploit many different food sources such as sweets, oils and dead insects.

These ants may also attack and kill livestock, especially poultry and can even damage certain crops. Their nesting behavior can damage electrical equipment, such as air conditioners and utility service boxes, as well as roadways and airport runways where the ants may cause potholes.

Control, Control, Control-

Most pest control professionals can treat for fire ants, but the homeowner can go to Walmart, Lowes or Home Depot and buy a product called Over and Out.  One bag will treat approximately 5000 square feet and cost approximately $20 per bag.  This product will treat your fire ant problem for 1 year. If you have any questions, send us an      email at or give us a call at 770-715-6985.

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