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Understanding Red Imported Fire Ants

As we’re all enjoying the warm weather, long days, and summer nights, so are fire ants. You know: Those small reddish-brown mounds that seem to transform into giant mountains in the blink of an eye?  It may seem like red imported fire ants have been around since the beginning of time. (or at least as long as we all can remember). However, a certain breed (most likely the kind that may be plotting to build a tiny empire in your backyard) actually only migrated to the United States from South America in the 1930s.

According to the Texas Imported Fire Ant Research and Management Project at Texas A&M, these Red Imported Fire Ants (aka RIFA) hopped on a boat that took them straight to Alabama from Brazil in the early 20th century, and they’ve spread their domain and reach across the country (and world) since.

How They Survive

Imported red fire ants need both a food source and moisture in order to live.   So, unfortunately, they like to call the Southeast home. Interestingly enough, “native fire ants prefer the arid southwestern United States and northern Mexico, where imported fire ants are rare.” Fire ants love the warm, sunny seasons and generally avoid shaded areas. In addition, these pests may also make their way into your yard through infested landscaping, such as nursery plants.

Within their mounds is a vast colony including hundreds of thousands of ants with at least one queen. Did you know that queen ants only require a handful of worker ants to start a new colony and that the whole process (even if the new mound is hundreds of feet away) can be completed overnight? To fuel these feats, red imported fire ants survive off of plants as well as “reptiles, birds, and mammals.” The worker ants are constantly searching for food—day and night—to bring back to their queen and colony.

It’s the Bite That Makes Them Famous

It’s probably safe to say that most people in the Southeast have been bitten by at least one fire ant in their life. and we all know that it’s absolutely no fun. Fire ants attack potential threats and prey in large numbers, which makes them all the more dangerous. When a fire ant bites, it injects a venom that leads to the unpleasant and irritatingly itchy red welts with white pustules. Some people may even be allergic to fire ant bites.

Your Solution

The good news to all this talk about red imported fire ants is that there are a handful of things you can do to try and prevent an infestation in your yard or home. However, if you see a colony building its mound in your yard, then the most effective way to eliminate them (and make sure they never come back) is to work with a professional pest control company, such as Economic Exterminators. There are a ton of supposed DIY treatments that proliferate on the internet.  However, the only continually successful treatment option to red fire ants is through professional intervention.

 

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