As a Florida resident, you’ve definitely been in contact with the notorious fire ant. They’re persistent little red insects whose stings range from obnoxious to life-threatening. Their populations can be overwhelming when they build large colonies, so we’ve put together a guide with all of the information you need to know about them, including identification, dangers, and prevention methods. Keep reading to find out more about the pesky fire ant.
How to Identify a Fire Ant
There are two species of fire ants in Florida. The more common species is the red imported fire ant. This species is considered invasive in the United States, and is actually native to South America. They are generally between 1/8 inch and ¼ inch in length and range in color from reddish brown to black. On the ground, their nests appear as large mounds of dirt that can grow to up to 3 feet across and 18 inches high, and can contain up to 500,000 individual ants. They will also nest in buildings, trees, stumps, rotting logs, inside electrical equipment, and under pavement.
The less common Florida fire ant species is the tropical or native fire ant. These ants are orange or reddish brown. They are quite light in color, which is where they got the nickname “ginger ant.” They only grow to be between 3 and 8 mm. Tropical fire ant nests appear as irregular, sandy craters. These ants will also sometimes nest in logs. They avoid nesting in shady areas, and instead prefer warm, sunny areas like open fields.
Fire ants are active year-round. However, their preference for hot weather allows their populations to rise when temperatures are between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Facts about Fire Ants
Fire ants differ from your typical house ant in a number of ways. The most important things to know about these potentially dangerous pests include:
- If a fire ant mound is disturbed, they will attack as one unit. When disturbed, the ants will begin spilling out ready to attack—and each ant will sting repeatedly.
- Fire ants don’t bite, they sting! Their stings can result in a burning sensation, hence their name. The sting site may swell and itch. A small pustule sometimes develops where the stinger enters the skin.
- If fire ants get on you, it’s important to quickly and repeatedly brush them off your skin. The ants can latch on tight, meaning shaking won’t repel them. If you develop symptoms from fire ants, it’s important to seek medical attention.
- Fire ants typically nest outdoors in open areas. Parks and fields are usually primary targets, but yards can be as well. The mounds are often found lining your grass and concrete, and they typically form on humid days.
- To begin a fire ant colony, queen fire ants mate with males, killing the male in the process, and fly to the site at which she’ll begin the new colony. The queen will lay up to 800 eggs per day, growing the colony to an average size of 100,000 to 500,000 ants.
- Fire ants are both predators and scavengers, attacking and killing other insects and small animals, or feeding on dead animals. They also feed on honeydew, certain parts of plants or plant secretions, and other sweet materials.
Are Fire Ants Dangerous?
Fire ants have a painful sting that they will use when they feel their nest is threatened. Usually, stings result in intense burning and itching at the site of the sting. A red welt forms and subsides within 30 minutes to an hour. Little pimple-like bumps will form within 24 hours and will rupture within 2 or 3 days. The pimple-like bumps generally cause burning, itching, and swelling. In most cases, the stings will heal on their own. Avoid scratching or breaking the blisters as much as possible, as that can lead to secondary infections. The area should be washed with soap and cool water to avoid a secondary infection and to help soothe the burning sensation. Antihistamines, anti-inflammatory medications, topical steroids, or ice can all be used to manage the symptoms caused by the stings.
If the reaction from stings is larger than the area of the stings themselves, or if the area is oozing, you may need to visit your doctor. These symptoms may indicate a secondary infection or a more intense reaction. Your doctor may suggest a medication like an antibiotic or oral steroid.
Around 16% of people who are stung by fire ants develop an allergic reaction. Serious allergic reactions can lead to anaphylaxis which, if untreated, can be fatal. Signs of a serious allergic reaction include difficulty breathing, flushing, itching, swelling of the face and throat, and loss of consciousness. Symptoms will start to appear within 30 or 40 minutes of the sting at most, but they can appear within minutes or seconds. These symptoms indicate a medical emergency and require immediate medical attention.
Preventing Fire Ants
While general pest prevention can be difficult, there are steps you can take to make your home less appealing to fire ants and other bugs. A few of the actions you can take include:
- Sealing Entry Points. Conduct a thorough inspection of your home for any cracks, gaps, or openings that fire ants can use as entry points. Sealing these areas with caulk or weatherstripping can prevent ants from gaining access to your house.
- Maintaining a Clean Environment. Fire ants are attracted to food particles and crumbs. Keep your home and outdoor spaces clean by promptly wiping up spills, cleaning countertops, and storing food in airtight containers. Regularly empty trash cans and ensure garbage bags are tightly sealed.
- Staying On Top of Landscaping and Yard Maintenance. Trim vegetation and keep it away from the foundation of your home to help eliminate potential pathways for fire ants. Remove debris, leaf piles, and other potential nesting sites where fire ants can thrive. Regularly inspect your yard for signs of fire ant mounds and take appropriate action if you discover them.
- Professional Fire Ant Control. Consider hiring a professional pest control service that specializes in fire ant control in Florida. They have the expertise and resources to effectively identify and treat fire ant colonies, providing long-term protection for your home.
If you notice signs of a fire ant infestation or require long-term fire ant control, it’s essential to seek professional assistance. Pest control experts have access to specialized treatments that effectively target fire ant colonies. They can assess the severity of the infestation, identify problem areas, and provide tailored solutions based on your specific needs. Additionally, some pest control specialists provide green pest control options, allowing you to get indoor and outdoor pest treatments without the use of harmful chemicals.
Why Choose Brock Lawn & Pest Control
Brock Lawn and Pest Control provides a thorough pest control program using the latest technology, systems, and materials. With our revolutionary “Inside & Out” Program, your property will never be better protected from crawling pests or rodents, all with fewer visits and less materials! Using innovative baiting techniques and Crack & Crevice injection systems with non-repellent insecticides, which are undetectable to pests, we take pest control to a new level of environmental friendliness, effectiveness, and convenience to target the resident’s specific needs. Brock Lawn and Pest Control will provide the protection your home needs and the peace of mind in knowing that insects will not infest your living area.
How It Works
- Thorough inspection of the garage and exterior perimeter around your home.
- Inspection of the interior of your home including the kitchen and bathroom areas.
- Application of a granule around the foundation of your home as well as a liquid treatment around doors, windows and eaves to minimize/prevent pests from entering.
- Application of baits, if needed, in concealed areas of your home.
- Crack and Crevice treatment using an odorless insecticide. Application of dust to available wall voids as needed.
- Both interior and exterior are treated on each visit.
- Removal of cobwebs that are accessible and within reach.
- Comprehensive report provided after each service indicating what was found, what was done and preventative tips.
- Appointments set up via telephone or email or fill out this short form.
- Your complete satisfaction guaranteed.
Brock Lawn and Pest Control provides extermination services and lawn care to cities such as: Panama City, Destin, Marianna, Panama City Beach, Pensacola, and Tyndall Air Force Base. We serve Bay, Gulf, Jackson, Washington, Holmes, Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, Liberty, Franklin, Calhoun Counties. Call us today to get started!