Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA)

Red Imported Fire Ants (Solenopsis invicta) are an invasive species that entered the United States in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.

Not only do Fire ants sting, they have caused major damage in the U.S. alone to the tune of over a half a billion dollars.

Fire ants infiltrate traffic signals, electrical switch and telephone boxes, and air conditioners, creating a need for costly repairs and replacements.

Red Fire Ant

Red Imported Fire Ant

Entomologist Examining an Ant Mound

USDA Entomologist Examing a Fire Ant Mound

Red Imported Fire ants have infested an estimated 278 million acres in 11 southern states and Puerto Rico.

Fire ants build their nests in mounds of soil outdoors, or near a building’s foundation.

The sting of a Red Imported Fire ant is very painful and usually will cause a raised welt that becomes a white blister.

There are Native Fire Ants (Solenopsis sp.) in the U.S., however, their numbers have declined because of the fight over food sources with the invasive Red Imported Fire ant.

Call today at 1-800-986-1006 for help with a Fire ant infestation. You’re also welcome to complete the form below and a caring Hearts Pest Management representative will contact you shortly.

Red Imported Fire Ant Prevention

The best way to keep red imported fire ants under control is to keep a clean and well kept house. Pay attention to cracks and crevices on the exterior of your home that could potentially allow entry to these biting ants.  While sealing cracks and crevices will help, it is not a guarantee against entry.
Entomologist Examining an Ant Mound

USDA Entomologist Examing a Fire Ant Mound

Ants are always looking for food sources, so keep your kitchen clean – even if you do use an exterminator.  This ant likes protein. It is more than willing to eat your hamburger crumbs and potato chips.  Ask if your plant nursery is properly inspected for the existence of a RIFA infestation.  If your plant nursery are following regulations, it should be monitoring for fire ants, as many fire ant infestations have started at a nursery. Fire ants can also be brought into a new area during landscaping and the introduction of new soils.  Beware that a new load of fertilizer could have an unexpected surprise in the form of a fire ant colony.

Dangers of the Red Imported Fire Ant

Fire ants can release attack pheromones in response to unusual vibrations and electronics. RIFA can do massive damage not only to food, but to other aspects critical in our daily life. Their habit of attacking electrical components can cause damage to refrigerators, computers, lights, A/C, and other electrical devices. This includes traffic lights and power substations. It is estimated that more than $ 5 billion is spent on RIFA in per year.  With their aggressive tendencies, RIFA also negatively impact local animals and ecosystem. The following video addresses insect attraction to electronics. The first segment is about fire ants. You may want to skip the second section about bees. Sudden RIFA attacks can happen from the simple vibrations of normal human activities, such as walking near a nest. Fire ants attack by swarming over the threat, latching on with their jaws and then stinging multiple times. The sting is especially painful.  Detoxification and desensitization from the RIFA sting can be very expensive.
Bites from red fire ants

Red Fire ant bites. This gentleman had 250 bites in 10 seconds after kneeling on a collapsed mound!

In extreme cases a person may be hospitalized after being stung.  In rare cases death can occur from anaphylactic shock. This swarming behavior is especially dangerous for infants or infirm individuals that have difficulty escaping the attack, as well as animals that are chained or restrained such that they can´t escape the red imported fire ant. Fire Ant Sting Photography from Hardin MD

Biology of the Red Imported Fire Ant

Fire ants range in size from an 1/8th to a ¼ of an inch.  They are usually red brown in color. At first glance the ant mound may look like a gopher mound except the outside of the mound is covered in many holes, giving it a Swiss cheese like appearance.  The mound usually has foraging tunnels with small groupings of holes every several feet. Click here for a Picture of a Fire Ant mound

Red Imported Fire Ant Food Sources

RIFA favor meat in their diet. They can receive this from many sources, especially young birds and other small mammals.  Fire ants are more than capable of going after human food and are especially fond of Spam and potato chips.

Origin and Migration of Red Imported Fire Ants

Global Expansion of the Invasive Fire Ant Red imported fire ants were inadvertently imported to the United States from South America.  Originally brought to the Gulf Coast in the 1930´s, fire ants have spread throughout the southern temperature zones of the United States primarily by soil movement, especially that of potted plants. They have now been a pest in southern California for many years. Fire ants are inventive.  They have been known to build ant bridges over floods and to assemble living rafts so that the ant colony will survive. This allows fire ants to spread along rivers and streams. While RIFA primarily exist in the southern areas of the U.S., they have been located as far north as the San Francisco Bay Area. They primarily form mounds on dry ground with a nearby water source.  They also prefer sunlight. They are commonly found in and around lawns, potted plants, fields and golf courses.

Controlling RIFA with Professional Pest Control

RIFA are amazingly tough. Many standard pest control practices will not work on this species.  Special techniques and products have been developed to control fire ants. This specialized fire ant treatment was developed by universities such as Texas A&M in conjunction with the federal government. It is a two stage treatment involving a nest kill and baiting, with maintenance baiting several months after first treatment. Utilizing an insect growth regulator with the bait provides a double pronged approach to eliminating the ant colony by direct kills and reduced reproduction. Unfortunately regular ant baits and sprays will not kill the colony. Only bait made specifically for specifically for fire ants will effectively kill a nest. Biological Controls: There are two “beneficial insect” species that can help control fire ants, the parasitic phorid fly and a microsporidium pathogenic spore.

How Can Customers Assist with Red Imported Fire Ant Control

The best way for you to help contain first ants is with keen observation. Identifying the problem before the colony grows too large is your best defense against this insect. This especially will help to limit human exposure to the ants, and the stinging that could potentially occur. Keeping irrigation well controlled will benefit you in limiting the spread of a fire ant colony. Excessive watering can lead to a longer mating flight and so spread the ants further away from the initial nest. There is no doubt that red imported fire ants are hard to get rid of. Spraying the mound with a common insecticide will not work and neither will flooding them out. For more information on ants and ant species, visit our page on Ant Control Call us at Hearts Pest Management:  1-800-986-1006.  We are licensed and trained to handle pesticides and handle the red imported fire ant.
Call Now 1-800-986-1006 or complete the form below

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RIFA References

extension – An Interactive Cooperative Extension System County of Los Angeles Agricultural Commissioners office – RIFA Purdue University Pest Tracker National Agricultural Information Service – Red Imported Fire Ants Tulane University – Red Imported Fire Ants Alien Species in Hawaii – Solenopsis Invicta Orange County Vector Control Red Imported Fire Ant Program Status United States Department of Agriculture – Red Imported Fire Ant Global Map
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