All about fire ants

Fire ants are pesky creatures, which are well known for their aggressive behavior. The body of fire ants is divided into three sections – the head, the abdomen and the thorax. They have a pair of antennae and three pairs of legs. Fire ants have copper brown head and darker abdomen, which help them to stand out from other ants.

The painful stings of the fire ant affect about 40% of people in infested areas each year. They attack small animals and can even kill them. They bite to get a grip and sting. They inject toxic alkaloid venom called Solenopsin. The victim feels a sensation similar to that caused by fire. The after effects of the sting may be anything moderate to severe.

Fire ants dig through the dirt and tunnel out of the jungles. They are found on every continent except Antarctica. They are primitive insects, existing in this world since the time dinosaurs existed. They are the strongest insects that have the ability to lift things five times its weight. They are social insects, which prefer living in communities. They depend on one another to gather food, build the nest, care for their young ones and protect themselves from enemies. A single fire ant cannot survive for a long period without the support of its colony.

Fire ants have small waists called petioles and so they can twist their end parts freely and turn their bodies in the nest. They can enter into tiny cracks and make their way into the homes. They have scent glands on the abdomen and they emit chemical odors with those glands. They use this odor to mark trails so that they can forage food.  They are not fussy eaters and feed on almost anything. They are carnivores in nature and eat animal materials, other insects, turtles, mice, seedlings, plant bulbs, fruits, grass, saplings and young trees.

The colony of fire ants comprises of a queen ant and worker ants. The worker ants have the capability to chew and cut with their mandibles, but can swallow only liquids. They have two stomachs to swallow their liquid food. One stomach is used to save the food to share with the others in the colony and the other stomach is used to digest food for themselves. They cut the solid food into smaller pieces and carry them to the colony for processing.

The lifecycle of fire ants involve four stages – egg, larva, pupa and adult. The queen ant lays small, whitish eggs. Mostly, she deposits eggs during the summer months. The eggs are categorized into two types –fertilized and unfertilized. Fertilized type eggs become winged virgin queen or worker ants. Unfertilized eggs become winged males that mate with the queens. The eggs then emerge into larva stage, which are light in color. The larvae cannot move from one place to another and they entirely depend upon the worker ants for food, protection and transportation. The fire ant larvae enter into the pupa stage and remain in that stage for several weeks. Then they become adult ants and various duties are allocated to them. The egg becomes an adult fire ant within 30 days. The life span of a fire ant is 180 days.

The queen fire ant in North American can live any where from 2 to 7 years. She lays 1,500 to 1,600 eggs per day. A fire ant colony typically contains 100,000 to 500,000 ants. The fire ants are active throughout the day and are incredibly organized in nature. The young fire ants help the queen ant to lay eggs. The guard ants block strangers from entering their colony. The winged male and female fire ants mate continuously in the spring and summer to start new colonies. The male ants die after mating and the female then becomes the queen.

Fire Ant Removal

One of the effective methods of controlling fire ants is the broadcast baiting. You must make sure the bait contains a fire ant killer and have a Hydramethylnon. A particular area can be treated just with a handful of this bait. Identify areas where the mounds of fire ants exist. Wherever you find granules on the floor, you can be sure fire ants exist there. Broadcast baiting is very effective if done twice a season, especially during late afternoons or evenings. If this is done during the fall season, you can be sure there will be a reduced fire ant population in your home during spring.

The next step for removing fire ants is drenching. Broadcast baiting must be followed by drenching which must last for at least six weeks. Drenching is nothing but treating the mounds after ensuring activity of the fire ants have become lesser. There are many different ways of drenching.

Boiling hot water can be poured directly on to the mounds. Orthene and Precise are certain dust products which can be used for fire ant control. The Acephate contained in these dusts effectively kills the ants. Alternately, various liquid drenching solutions are available with which you can kill fire ants.

Fire ants found indoors can be eliminated with the help of fire ant baits. There are special fire ant baits available for indoor use. It is very important to ensure that you keep these baits away from children, pets and food. Before purchasing fire ant bait, ensure it is made for indoor use.

Diatomaceous earth or silica has the capacity to dehydrate and kill colonies of ants. This is possible with the help of the sharp crystals that scratch the fire ant’s cuticles. Spread this diatomaceous earth on areas where you find ants. Maybe not all, but certainly a majority of them will be killed with this method.

One interesting method of removing fire ants is to mix them with another ant colony. Ants of two different colonies do not get along with each other. They fight and kill each other in the bargain. Mix multiple queen colonies with colonies of fire ants for best results.

Pouring hot water over the ant mounds is one of the most environmental friendly methods of removing fire ants. This procedure has to be necessarily repeated three to four times before you can completely eliminate the ant colonies.
The only problem here is that you will have to do it for three or four times before you completely kill the colony. If water is not scalding hot, then this method would not be that effective. You do not need to have the water boiling before you pour it on the mound either. Each application or session will require you three to four gallons of water. Before you consider this method, make sure that you don't apply it on shrubbery or grass because hot water can kill them.

Damages Caused By Fire Ants

Fire ants are very lively and have aggressive behavior. It can swarm over anyone or on anything that try to disturb its nest. Due to their aggressive nature, they tend to attack wild animals and also some baby animals. They attack in such a way that can take the precious lives of these wild animals.

Fire ants bites pet and human beings in certain circumstances and the sting is very painful. There is an ongoing research that is taking place in the damage caused by Fire ants. One study has shown that fire ants sting about twenty million people across the United States and the other study shows that 40% of the people get to encounter with fire ants in the infested area every year. These fierce ants invade an area with a vengeance and come in enormous numbers that dramatically reduce the population of the native ants and other small insects residing in that area.

These unfriendly and unwelcome residents have originated from South America and they do not have any natural enemies except the humans. These terror causing fire ants are different from the normal red and black. These ants are quarter of inch in length and reddish brown in color. These fire ants normally live in mounds and you would find them almost everywhere. If you cannot spot them there, you can definitely spot them in golf courses and in gardens as they get plenty of sun light which they need to survive. Before you start to realize which type of ant you have just seen they swarm onto you and the female ants will immediately bite your skin. The stinger gets inserted immediately after they bite and the venom is injected quickly in that spot.

The damage caused by fire ants to electrical equipment cost millions of dollars to repair and eradicate. They invade gardens, schoolyards, homes, golf courses and parks and do harm in many ways in these areas. They damage all kinds of plants as that form a part of its diet. They also eat the buds of the plant and then move through the tunnel to the root and damage other plants as well. They eat everything like the seeds, pods or anything else that is nutritious to them. These ants use aphids for food and they also try to protect them from their predators. Aphids can cause a serious damage to plants even if these ants don’t do it.

These ferocious ants cause damage to polyethylene tubing that is used in drip irrigation in farmlands. Due to the presence of water, wet food and carbon-di-oxide in these tubes, it naturally becomes food for the fire ants. They start the chewing and digging activity right away. They mostly create damage to the buried tubes than those exposed to the sun. The damage caused to the polyethylene tubes does increase with the increase in temperature. They breed more on the border of the wetland and also cause extensive damage to crops like potato in the farm. These fire ants could potentially reduce the quality of vegetables and fruits as they keep chewing the fruit or vegetable in their growth stage. They also feed on biological control agents and do interfere with the integrated pest management practices followed by the farmers. They also cause damage to harvesting machinery to an extent that can potentially stop the harvesting operations.

The nests for the fire ants are generally typically found outdoors in the ground, but it is not uncommon to discover these pests inside the wall cavities, electrical boxes, computers, drawers, and clothes thereby creating extensive damage to them. They have become a problem in apartments, schools and businesses too. They also infest electrical equipment’s in the premises and create extensive damage to air conditioners, signal boxes and utility units. Due these damages created in the electrical equipment it may at times lead to short circuit in the electrical unit and could even cause fire and damage the all.

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