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Ants are the most common household pest in the United States. Some species such as odorous ants and pavement ants are simply a nuisance to homeowners, but other species can pose health risks or cause damage to a home. One such species is the red imported fire ant.
What makes them unique?
Fire ants get their name from their especially painful sting or bite. The Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA) is an invasive species imported from Brazil in the 1930s and is known to be more aggressive than other species of ants. They are red-yellow in color with an extruded stinger — always at the ready for use. Some ant species need a specific food source to survive, but fire ants will eat almost anything, plant or animal, that they can find.
Fire Ants also have a unique way of surviving floods. The colony will connect to form a ball and float until it encounters dry land. When this occurs, Fire Ants are an even greater threat because they do not have the safety of a nest and are very hungry. They may be more prone to attack and will sting with more venom than usual.
Do they present any health risks?
For most people, the sting of the red imported fire ant causes a raised welt that can become a white pustule and is very painful. But rarely will someone be stung by a single ant. More likely, a person stung by a Fire Ant will receive multiple stings from multiple ants defending their nest. Ants use pheromones to communicate with each other, so when one is in distress, others will come to its aid — usually to the detriment of whomever disturbed the nest. For about 2% of the population, stings from a red ant can also cause anaphylactic shock.
How can I prevent them?
This species of ant also has a telltale mound nest structure. If you see an ant nest that looks like it could be fire ants, be sure to carefully avoid it. If you do encounter a nest and are stung by fire ants, seek medical attention promptly.
Controlling red imported fire ants can be very difficult and may only last for a short time as the ants tend to reinvade the next season. If you suspect you have a fire ant infestation or if you think you have a nest on your property, contact a licensed pest professional right away. Do not attempt to move the nest on your own. The sooner the infestation is treated, the less risk there is of someone disturbing the nest and being stung.
Turner Pest Control provides full service lawn and outdoor pest control including a Fire Ant Protection Program. Fire Ants are a common problem in Florida. If you find ant mounds in your yard, contact Turner Pest Control.