Red Ants

What are Red Ants?
In the United States, there are many species of ants that are red in color. Many times people will call ants “red ants” because they do not know the correct name. However, the ant that is most often called the “red ant” is the red imported fire ant. Sometimes it is called by its initials—RIFA. In Spanish, they are known as hormiga colorada or hormiga fuego. However, in Portuguese, the red ants are called formiga lava-pé, or wash foot ant, and formiga de fogo.

Appearance

What do they look like?

fire ants
Red imported fire ants are black and red in color, measuring 1.6 to 5 mm in length.

How Did I Get Red Ants?

If the red ants in the yard are truly fire ants, it’s likely that warm weather and other suitable environmental conditions attracted them to your area. Wide open lawns with plenty of sun exposure typically have problems with these pests.

Red imported fire ants may also move into yards as a result of infested nursery plants or grass sod being used in the home’s landscaping. Since red ant colonies often grow large enough to extend across several properties, control and prevention can be challenging.

How Serious Are Red Ants?

Red ants make unsightly mounds in yards. These ugly dirt piles lead into their underground colonies and may reach a foot or more in height and width. Red imported fire ants will also attack any perceived threat to their nests. Stings can be painful and leave behind red marks that often become white, pustule-like blisters about one day after the sting. If someone disturbs their nest, ants by the hundreds may suddenly rush to attack the intruder and cause multiple stings and bites. However, only the sting and not the bite involve injecting venom and it is the ant’s venom that causes the typical sting reactions and symptoms. Red imported fire ant envenomation generally becomes a very serious medical reaction, especially if the sting victim in hyper-allergic to the venom.

How Do I Get Rid of Red Ants?

Because fire ants can be sometimes a danger to humans and pets, it is a good idea to consult with professionals regarding ways to control them. Call your local Orkin Branch office to set up an inspection of your property. 

A highly trained Orkin Pest Specialist will come to your home and conduct a thorough inspection inside and outside. The Orkin Specialist will develop a customized treatment plan backed by science that best meets your needs.

For more information or to schedule an inspection, please contact your local Orkin branch office.

Facts

Where do they live?
They often nest in soil and other moist environments such as irrigated lawns and the edges of riverbanks and ponds. Red imported fire ants move eggs, larvae or pupae up and down in the galleries of their nest’s tunnels. A red imported fire ant colony may contain several queens and thousands of worker ants.

Behavior
When provoked, red imported fire ants are aggressive insects, but they are most often seen building piles of soil outdoors. They feed on seeds, young plants and small insects such as crickets. They may attack and capture small animals, first biting their victims and then injecting them with alkaloid venom via an abdominal stinger.

Bites
When a red imported fire ant bites a human, the sensation is comparable to that of being touched by a lit match. After they bite, the ants hold on to the victim with their mandibles (jaws) and use their stinger to deliver their venom. Most people experience pain and red bumps, though a few individuals are allergic to the red imported fire ant and may experience a severe reaction. Emergency services should be contacted immediately if a sting victim experiences nausea, headache or difficulty breathing.

The red imported fire ant has become a major pest in several countries, including southern North America, the Philippines, Taiwan, Australia and south China.

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