Red Imported Fire Ant

Category:

Actual Size: 1.6 to 5 mm

Characteristics: Dark-reddish brown. Stinger located in their abdomen.

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Wings: The reproductive males and females have wings.

Habitat: Fire ants build mounds in almost any soil, favoring structural foundations and landscaping in open sunny areas.

Habits:

  • Colonies typically construct mounds in open areas.
  • Unlike most ants, mounds do not have an entrance hole in the center.
  • Sting in unison and their venom can cause anaphylactic shock in 1% of the population.

Red Imported Fire Ants in Central Florida

The Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA) gets its name from its burning, painful sting.  Found throughout Florida, RIFA’s are small ants that live in colonies containing up to 500,000 workers. The RIFA is notorious for its aggressive nature, and it has been known to attack people, plants, and animals. RIFA’s will also invade homes and buildings, damaging air-conditioning units and telephone wires. 

Red Imported Fire Ant Habitat                           

The RIFA prefers to build mounds in areas that are open and exposed to the sun. Mounds as high as 2 feet can be found in pastures, parks, lawns, meadows, and cultivated fields. Often, mounds are located in rotting logs and around stumps and trees. RIFA mounds have no opening in the center like most ant mounds. Colonies can also occur in or under buildings, barns, and sheds. Sometimes, the RIFA will nest inside homes during the winter months around enclosed warm structures like bathtubs, hot water heaters, air units, and electrical power boxes.

Red Imported Fire Ant Behaviors, Threats or Dangers

The red imported fire ant’s sting is a serious concern to people and their pets. The RIFA delivers a painful sting, which they are able to carry out in unison after crawling up the legs of an unwitting victim. Their venom causes a burning sensation and may cause life-threatening anaphylactic shock in a small percentage (less than 1%) of the population. In addition to stings, the red imported fire ant causes problems by building its nests around trees, yard plants, pipes, and in the walls of structures. Colony-building can damage plants, lawns, and outdoor electrical fixtures. The RIFA rarely nests indoors, but if they do, a professional ant exterminator should be contacted immediately.