Fire Ant Nests, Hills and Range

Since its introduction to the country in the 1930s, the red imported red fire ant has spread nearly unchecked throughout the southern United States. The fire ants have been found as far west as California and as far north as Virginia. The ants respond best to the American South’s warm climate, choosing flat, sunny areas to begin their colonies.

Fire Ant Hill/Nest
Fire Ant Hill/Nest

The fire ant’s sting is highly irritating to most humans. The ant first uses its jaws to secure itself to its victim, and then it injects the victim with venom via an abdominal stinger. One ant can deliver multiple stings, pivoting in a circle, and will continue to do so until it is dislodged or killed.

Fire ant mounds can be 61 cm in diameter, and 18 cm high, though much larger mounds have been documented. The queen and brood are located below the mound in an elaborate maze of chambers and tunnels. The fire ant’s mound helps regulate temperatures throughout the colony below, allowing ants to survive severe weather and seasonal changes.

A single nest can house between 100,000 to 500,000 individual insects. Red imported fire ant colonies include queens and sterile female workers. After larvae mature, they are assigned a task based on their size, age and the requirements of the colony. These worker ants may be responsible for defending, foraging, building, nursing or housekeeping their colonies. Red imported fire ant colonies often have multiple queens, and queens can live up to six years.

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