The Fire ant is a collective name given to the New World ant species that belongs to the genus Solenopsis. There are 200 recognized ant species and they are also called ‘tropical fire ants’ or simply ‘red ants. These reddish brown ants are notable for their extremely aggressive nature. We speak of the fire ants’ behavior but people living in the southeastern United States know it all too well!
Fire Ants Facts
How Do Fire Ants Look Like?
- Fire ants seem more like a typical ant in that the body is divided into three parts; the abdomen, thorax, and the head. They are followed by two antennae and three pair of legs.
- The fire ants’ abdomen is a little dark while the body and head are copper brown.
- There are 10 segments in the antennae.
- Fire ants have varied sizes depending on the role each one has to play. For instance worker ants are smaller than the queen. Workers grow to length of about 2.5 mm in S. invicta while queen reaches a length of 7 mm.
See also: Ant Facts For Kids
How Do Fire Ants Behave?
- Fire ants cannot strike with their sting for they must bite first so that they could curve the abdomen to sting.
- The fire ants’ venom consists of a chemical that produces a burning sensation. The chemical is known as ‘piperidine alkaloids’.
- If a fire ant stings a human skin, then a red spot is mostly visible. However venom is not harmful but it may cause an itchiness and sometimes even painful.
- Like other ants species, fire ants also build mounds that may be as high as 30 cm above the ground. Large mounds facilitate the insects to move up and down depending outside temperature and humidity.
- There seems to be small exit holes on the mounds which are hardly visible but one can easily see foraging trails easily.
- During floods, they typically shift to the upper parts of mounds. On the other hand, during droughts they are thought to tunnel down the ground as deep as 6 meters in search of moisture.
What Do Fire Ants Eat?
- Fire ants largely take liquids in their diet. There are filters in their digestive tracts that purify it from all the solids.
- However sometime they will also eat young plants and seeds. Often does it happen that ants strike small animals and kill them right away.
See also: What Do Ants Eat?
How Do Fire Ants Mate?
- Mating flights of fire ants go high in the spring season in the southeastern United States. The queen will fly after the rain. She will take flight when the queen is fed with food.
- Worker ants open large exit holes of mounds; out of these holes males and females come out in midafternoon. Fire ants mate in the sky.
- Males will die soon after mating whereas the queen sheds its wings and on land it searches a place to dig tunnel.
- A fire ant queen may lay up to 1,600 eggs each day and a single colony might consist of 250,000 worker ants. The average lifespan of fire ants is 5.5 – 6.5 years.
- The queen closes all the tunnel holes and deposit eggs therein. The workers are born in about 30 days.
- The average lifespan of queen is 6 years. Queens mate only once in a lifetime.
- Queens never fight with each other instead they all stay in one part of the nest. However one of the queens must be dominant and the dominant one receives more food.
Where Do Fire Ants Nest?
- Fire ants are thought to build nests near moist areas where there is wet soil such as watered lawns, rivers, pond shores, streams, and other short-water bodies.
- One can barely see fire ants’ nest because they mostly build it under logs, crevices, or in bricks and even timber.
- The mounds ants build resembles us of a dome. They construct mounds in open areas such as in fields, lawns, and parks. If the soil is heavy enough the support the tall structure, then probably ants are likely to build one meter high mounds.
- Either a queen or several different queens will find a small ants’ colony. If a queen lives up to 30 days or more then the colony may expand to thousands of individuals.