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Fire Ant Anatomy

Introduced to the United States in the 1930s, the red imported fire ant is now common throughout the South, as well as the Southeastern seaboard and parts of California.

Fire ant anatomy is similar to that of most ant species. Fire ants are red and black in coloration and, like all insects, they are protected by a hard exoskeleton and have six legs. Worker ants have round heads with mandibles, an armored thorax midsection and an abdomen, made up of the pedicle and the gaster. The head is typically copper brown in color. In addition to their mandibles, fire ant workers also possess an abdominal stinger.

After securing themselves to their prey with their mandibles, red fire ants use their stinger to inject the victim with alkaloid venom. The result is a burning sensation combined with red welts and pustules. Some victims experience an allergic reaction, and there are documented fatalities as a result of fire ant stings.

When the population of a single mound becomes large, the queen will produce winged male and female reproductive ants. These ants leave the colony in a massive mating flight. After females are fertilized, they land and shed their wings. The males die after mating.

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