Little Fire Ants

Little Fire Ants: Facts, Identification & Control

Scientific Name:

Wasmannia auropunctata

Appearance

Little fire ant workers are very small – only about 1.5 mm long. The workers are colored light to golden brown. The queens are about 4 mm long and are similar in color as the workers.

Behavior, Diet & Habits

Little fire ants are part of the tramp ant group – invasive ant species that are able to survive in new environments that have an absence of their natural enemies.

Little fire ant workers are very slow moving unlike most other kinds of ants. In fact, at times they move so slowly that they are not observed until someone becomes the victim of their very painful, burning sting. Unlike other fire ants, little fire ants are not likely to defend themselves in a large, stinging swarm. Instead, they are much less aggressive and will sting only when pressed upon by an unsuspecting person or animal. One ant can sting many times and the reaction from their sting varies from moderate to severe pain and swelling that can last up to several days. In general, if someone is being stung but no ants are seen, little fire ants are often the cause.

Several queens and large numbers of workers, pupae, larvae, and eggs make up a little fire ant nest, which can often be found beneath common forest floor debris, in tree crotches, and under flower pots. Additionally, the nests have been reported in structural wall voids and in palms or palmettos plant sheaths. Little fire ants rarely enter homes, but when they do they are likely foraging for food. In their natural outdoor locations, they consume honeydew that is secreted by aphids and scales, plus obtain protein by feeding on dead and living arthropods. In search of food, little fire ants trail along sidewalks and foundations up around buildings. Inside homes, ant trails are likely to be found along baseboards.

Reproduction

Little fire ants benefit from both asexual and sexual reproduction, and colonies usually have multiple queens. Most new colonies are formed by budding – a process whereby a fertile queen and a group of workers will leave the established colony to form a new colony.

Signs Of An Infestation

Common signs of a little fire ant infestation are seeing them in recently disturbed locations, trailing along baseboards inside of buildings and painful stings without seeing the stinging insect are common signs of an infestation.

Distribution

This ant is well established in southeastern states and the island of Hawaii, plus they have been reported in Los Angeles county, California. Little fire ants are often seen in greenhouses.

Other Information

Little fire ant problems are a job for your pest management professional (PMP). Some of the more effective preventative actions are to remove grass and mulch away from the home’s foundation, driveway and sidewalk to make it easier to check for ants. Also, homeowners should inspect and remove landscape timbers, stones, piles of wood debris and firewood. Targeting the nests with insecticides and using baits can be effective as well as using dust or aerosol insecticides on infested structure voids.

Little fire ants are a serious annoyance and health threat to fruit pickers in citrus groves and orchards.