Fire ant

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Fire ant

Fire ant is the common name for several species of ants in the genus Solenopsis. They are, however, only a minority in the genus, which includes over 200 species of Solenopsis worldwide. Solenopsis are stinging ants and most of their common names reflect this, for example, ginger ants and tropical fire ants. Many species also are called red ants because of their light brown color, though species of ants in many other genera are similarly named for similar reasons. Examples include Myrmica rubra and Pogonomyrmex barbatus.

None of these names apply in all countries nor to all species of Solenopsis, nor only to Solenopsis species; for example the colloquial names for several species of weaver ants in the genus Oecophylla in Southeast Asia include “fire ants” because of their red color and painful sting; the two genera, however, are not closely related. Also, Wasmannia auropunctata is commonly called the “little fire ant”.


Red imported fire ants usually nest in soil near structural foundations or in landscaping. Although these fire ants are often found outdoors, they can gain access to buildings through HVAC systems and AC units.

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Clade: Euarthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Hymenoptera
  • Family: Formicidae
  • Subfamily: Myrmicinae
  • Tribe: Solenopsidini
  • Genus: Solenopsis
  • Type species: Solenopsis geminate

How do I identify fire ants?

In areas where fire ants are commonly found, most people identify this pest by the appearance of the mound. The painful sting of the fire ant’s bite is another good indicator, but not recommended as a method of identification. Fire ants build mounds in almost any type of soil, but they prefer open sunny areas such as pastures, parks, lawns, and fields. Their mounds can grow 18 to 24 inches in height if the soil conditions are right. Often mounds are located in rotting logs and around stumps and trees. Colonies can also occur in or under buildings. The ants themselves are reddish brown in color and roughly 1/8 to 1/4 inch in length.


  • Fire ants are so called because of two reasons – first, they have a reddish appearance and second, they have a very painful sting. The pain caused by the sting is same as the pain caused by a fire burn and hence the name.
  • These ants are extremely aggressive and anything that intrudes into their colonies are met with repeated stinging.
  • Though fire ants feed primarily on seeds and young plants, the are actually omnivores. They also feed on small animals and birds.
  • While talking of the feeding habit, it is important to say that these ants are extremely aggressive and can collectively kill small animals.
  • Fire ants don’t hibernate during extreme winter months. That’s why most of them perish.
  • As far as their nests are concerned, they prefer moist lands. That’s the reason why highway shoulder, watered lawns, pond shores and river banks are their most preferred nesting grounds.
  • Worker ants usually live anywhere between 5.83 and 6.77 years.
  • Queen ants and drones that are virgin actually have wings. However, once the mating is over, the drones die out and the queen ants rip off their wings.


Imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta and Solenopsis richteri, are social insects that usually produce hills or mounds in open areas where the colonies reside. These fire ants build mounds in almost any type of soil, but prefer open, sunny areas such as meadows, pastures, parks, playgrounds, lawns, and golf courses, as well as agricultural land and wilderness areas. Often mounds are located in rotting logs and around stumps and trees. Colonies also can occur in or under buildings.

Where do fire ants live

RIFA are currently found mainly in subtropical southeastern USA states including Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and parts of North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and California.

Fire ant images

Image by Lilakaugummi from Pixabay

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