Fire Ant is the common name for several species of ants in the genus Solenopsis, all of which are stinging ants. A typical Fire Ant colony produces large mounds in open areas. They primarily feed on young plants, seeds and sometimes crickets. Fire Ants often attack small animals and can kill them. Most other species of ant bite and then spray acid on the wound.
Fire Ants bite only to get a grip and then sting. They then inject a toxic alkaloid venom called Solenopsin. For humans, this is a painful sting. The sensation produced has been compared to being burned by fire. This is the origin of the term “Fire Ant.” For individuals sensitive to the toxin, multiple stings may be fatal.
Fire Ant Behavior
Fire Ants are more aggressive than most indigenous species. Because of this, they have pushed many species away from their local habitat, even possibly into extinction. These ants are renowned for their ability to survive extreme conditions. Despite being native to regions of South America, they do not hibernate in colder climates. They can survive prolonged temperatures as low as 16 F (-9 C).
Fire Ants nest in the soil, often near moist areas. Such areas may include river banks, pond shores, watered lawns and highway shoulders. Usually, the nest will not be visible. Typically it will be built under objects such as timber, logs, rocks, or bricks. If there is no cover for nesting, dome-shaped mounds will be constructed. These are usually only found in open spaces, such as fields, parks and lawns. These mounds can reach heights of up to 15.7 in (40 cm). They can also be as much as 5 ft (1.5 m) deep.
Fire Ant Colonies
Colonies are founded by small groups of queens or single queens. Even if only one queen survives, within a month or so, the colony can expand to thousands of individuals. Some colonies possess multiple queens. This trait is uncommon among insects. Fire Ant queens are the reproductive females in their colony. They are also generally the largest ants in the colony. Their primary function is reproduction. Fire Ant queens may live as long as 6-7 years. During their lifetimes they can produce up to 3,500 eggs per day. That adds up to roughly 9 million eggs produced during a single queen’s lifetime. Young, virgin Fire Ant queens have wings (as do male Fire Ants), but rip them off after mating.
Todd Sain Sr.