Fire Ant

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Mound has no obvious entry or exit holes on top. Usually found in open areas such as lawns, pastures, along roadsides and in unused cropland. Can be found next to or under other objects e.

My Fire Ants Are Planning an Escape

View current fire ant biosecurity zones. Life cycle After mating flight, new queens establish colonies and lay eggs within 24 hours. Eggs hatch within days and queen lays more eggs. After 1 month, worker ants have opened colony and are tending queen, who lays more eggs.

After months, colony is producing male and female alates sexually mature ants. Newly mated female alates leave nest to establish more colonies. Crops affected More than 50 agricultural and horticultural crops, as well as turf and nursery species, are affected by fire ants. All are grown in Australia, in areas that fire ants could inhabit. Affected animals livestock native animals pets.

Feed voraciously on small ground fauna, including insects, spiders, lizards, frogs, birds and mammals. Could displace or eliminate some native species. Eat and damage seeds, possibly causing major ecosystem changes over time. Economic Fire ant mounds can be serious problem in lawns, sporting fields and golf courses. Damage sensitive electrical equipment. Affect tourism industry and export of items to fire-ant-free countries. Significantly affect agriculture industry. Attack young animals, stinging around eyes, mouth and nose, leading to blindness and suffocation.

Top 10 Things to Know about Fire Ants

Prevent animals from reaching food or water without being seriously stung, leading to starvation and dehydration. Can damage and kill some plants by tunnelling through roots and stems. Protect some pest insect species that produce 'honeydew', downgrading quality of produce and helping to spread disease. Feed on important biological control agents, interfering with integrated pest management practices.

Mounds can destroy equipment, such as irrigation systems, and damage machinery during harvesting operations. Health Fire ants usually move quickly, allowing large numbers to move onto humans before they are detected. Stings from fire ants can cause a painful, burning, itching sensation, lasting up to 1 hour.

Multiple stings give sensation that body is on fire.

Is eradication possible?

Small pustules may form at sting sites several hours after stinging and may become itchy. Figure 6. Worker size range of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren. Photograph by Sanford D. Figure 7. Typical colony of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren. Figure 8.


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Mound of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren, in St. Photograph by Rudolf Scheffrahn, University of Florida. The lifespan of RIFA workers depends on their size. Minor workers may live 30 to 60 days, media workers 60 to 90 days, major workers 90 to days, and queens may live two to six years. Complete lifecycle from egg to adult takes between 22 and 38 days Hedges Mating flights are the primary means of colony propagation, secondarily, budding can occur in which a portion of a colony becomes an autonomous unit.

After the colony reaches one year of age, reproductive alates are produced. Six to eight mating flights consisting of up to 4, alates each occur between the spring and fall Vinson and Sorenson Mating occurs during flight and the males die soon after mating with females. In the southern United States, as many as 97, queens may be produced per acre of infested land per year Vinson and Sorenson Alates are often attracted to swimming pools where homeowners can find thousands of winged ants trapped on the water's surface Hedges After mating flights occur, it is common to find newly-mated queens clustered together under shelter.

This clustering and the cooperation of the newly-mated queens aid in establishing a colony. However, as the colony grows all but one queen will be killed, except in the instance of multiple queen colonies Vinson and Sorenson Once the female alate has mated, she will rake her legs forward to snap her wings off at the basal suture and find a suitable spot to begin a new colony Holldobler Often this spot is under rocks, leaves or in a small crack or crevice, such as at the edge of a sidewalk, driveway, or street.

The queen will burrow into the soil to excavate a small chamber, which is sealed off to keep predators out. Within 24 hours of mating, the queen will have laid between 10 to 15 eggs, which will hatch in eight to 10 days. By the time the first group of eggs hatch, the queen will have laid from 75 to more eggs. The larval stage typically lasts six to 12 days and the pupal stage for nine to 16 days. The newly-mated queen will stop laying eggs until the first batch of workers mature. This process takes from two weeks to one month.

The queen will feed the first batch of young larvae oils regurgitated from her crop, trophic eggs or secretions from her salivary glands. The queen's wing muscles, which are no longer needed, break down to provide the nutrients for the young larvae Vinson and Sorenson The first workers to emerge are characteristically small due to the limitations in nutrients that the queen provides. These workers, termed "minims," burrow out of the chamber and begin foraging for food to feed the queen and new larvae. The minims also begin construction of the mound.

Within one month, larger workers are being produced and the mound is growing in size. By six months the colony has reached several thousand workers and the mound can be seen in a field or lawn. Colonies of this size generally contain a few large workers major workers , many medium sized workers median workers , and a majority of small workers minor workers.

The three types of workers are all sterile females and serve to perform tasks necessary to maintain the colony. The queen is the single producer of eggs and is capable of producing as many as 1, eggs per day. Mature RIFA colonies may contain as many as , workers with a typical colony consisting of 80, workers Vinson and Sorenson The diet of foraging workers consists of dead animals, including insects, earthworms, and vertebrates.

Workers also collect honeydew and will forage for sweets, proteins, and fats in homes. They are sometimes attracted to piles of dirty laundry. Larvae are fed only a liquid diet until they reach the third instar. When the larvae reach the fourth instar, they are able to digest solid foods. Worker ants will bring solid food rich in protein and deposit it in a depression in front of the mouth of the larvae.

The larvae will secrete digestive enzymes that break down the solid food and regurgitate it back to worker ants. The queen is fed some of the digested protein to support egg production. As long as food is plentiful, egg production is at its maximum Vinson and Sorenson The sting of the RIFA possesses venom of an alkaloid nature, which exhibits potent necrotoxic activity. The remainder of the venom contains an aqueous solution of proteins, peptides, and other small molecules that produce the allergic reaction in hypersensitive individuals. Worker fire ants will attach to the skin using their mandibles and will subsequently lower the tip of the gaster to inject the stinger into the victim.

Thus, fire ants both bite and sting, but only the sting is responsible for the pain and pustule Goddard Figure 9.


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Larval stage of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren. Figure Pupal stage of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren. Red imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta Buren, foraging and recruiting a cricket. Red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren, stinging and biting. White pustules formed after attack by the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren. Early studies of imported fire ant biology indicated that colonies contained single queens monogyne.

However, since , reports have become more frequent of the occurrence of multiple queen polygyne colonies. Multiple queen colonies have been found in areas of Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Georgia, being more frequent in the western edge of their range Vinson and Sorenson Multiple queen colonies differ from single queen colonies in several ways: 1 the mounds are closer together and more numerous per acre of land, 2 the colonies have smaller workers with fewer major workers present, 3 workers are not aggressive towards neighboring colonies, and 4 the queens weigh less and produce fewer eggs than single queens.

The overall number of eggs produced in a multiple queen colony is higher than in a single queen colony due to the presence of many queens producing eggs simultaneously. Additionally, fewer reproductive alates of fire ants are produced with the males often being sterile and the females weighing less Hedges , Vinson and Sorenson Polygyne colony of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren.

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Since the introduction of the RIFA, it has become a major agricultural and urban pest throughout the southeastern states. In addition, fire ants cause both medical and environmental harm Stimac and Alves In agriculture, the RIFA frequently invades soybean crops and heavy infestations invariably yield fewer soybeans Lofgren and Adams In Georgia and North Carolina, it has been reported that RIFA mounds caused direct interference with combine operation resulting in Banks et al.

Opportunistic feeding on the young tender growth by red imported fire ant occurs throughout the year and can cause significant damage not only to soybean crops, but citrus, corn, okra, bean, cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, potato, sweet potato, peanut, sorghum, and sunflower Stimac and Alves Monetary losses occur when RIFA interfere with the root system of the plant, mechanically disable combine operation, or feed on the young growth of plants to reduce stands Stimac and Alves In urban settings, the RIFA may nest under patio slabs, in lawns, under edges of sidewalks, foundations, concrete driveways, and electrical boxes.

After a heavy rain, the colony may move to higher ground or inside homes to take refuge from saturated soil. If nesting under patio slabs or concrete walkways, the nest cavity may cause the concrete slab to fall and cause damage to the sidewalk Vinson and Sorenson Red imported fire ants have been reported to reduce ground-nesting populations of rodents and birds.

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In certain instances, the RIFA may completely eliminate ground-nesting species from a given area Vinson and Sorenson Because there is a 10 to 20 year lapse before reductions in bird populations are observed, it has been suggested that actual effects of the RIFA on animal populations may be underestimated Mount The human toll from RIFA stings is an important public health concern. Stings may produce a large range of reactions from localized pain and swelling to anaphylactic shock, making it hard to estimate the cost to public health.

The cost associated with the control of the RIFA is significant. Dead baby bird being consumed by red imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta Buren. Fire ants frequently invade home lawns, school yards, athletic fields, golf courses, parks and other recreational areas.

Additionally, electrical equipment and utility housing, home gardens, compost piles, mulched flowerbeds, pavement cracks, and the perimeter of bodies of water must all be considered when choosing a method of control. Two approaches can be taken to effectively manage imported fire ants. Single mound treatments or area-wide broadcast applications usually manage red imported fire ant populations.

Fire Ants - Red Fire Ant Control, Get Rid of Fire Ants

There are many methods of treating individual mounds. The main advantage to this process is that there are so many choices available to homeowners and pest control operators, though few may actually eliminate the colony. However, the largest disadvantage is that individual mounds must each be located in order to be treated. Individual mound treatments are most beneficial when there are native ants in the same area as imported fire ants.

Reinfestation of any treated area, whether by broadcast treatment or individual mound treatment may occur. Six methods of individual mound treatment are available Vinson and Sorenson Mound Drenches. Large volumes of liquid toxic to ants are poured over a mound.

Liquids can range from using several gallons of hot water to insecticides mixed with several gallons of water. This method may not reach the queen, which may be deep in the nest, thus preventing colony elimination. Surface Dusts. This method is very similar to mound drenches.

How to Kill Fire Ants

A dust or granular insecticide is applied over the top of the mound and then watered into the soil. Mound Injections. The use of insecticides that may be pressurized and injected into a mound. Often this method is more expensive, but more effective, than mound drenches. However, more time may be required for this method and leakage of the insecticide by the equipment may be hazardous to the handler. Again, the queen may not be affected and thus reinfestation may occur. Baits can be used for both individual mound and broadcast applications.

A small amount of the bait is sprinkled around the mound and the ants then forage and bring the bait back to the colony to feed on.



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