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Fire Ants – The Painful Sting

January 13, 2024

Description and Habits

The Fire Ant has a shiny bright red head and body with a black abdomen. These red ants build large mound nests that are flattened, irregular in shape, and between two and four square feet in size. They are commonly introduced into new areas through potted plants, shrubs and trees.

Fire Ant Habitat

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. If they manage to get inside, red ant bites can become an issue.

The threats they pose

The sting of a red imported fire ant is painful and often results in a raised welt that becomes a white pustule. Fire ants are very aggressive when their nest is disturbed. If provoked, they swarm on the perceived intruder, anchor themselves by biting to hold the skin stable, and then sting repeatedly, injecting a toxin alkaloid venom called solenopsin. We refer to this action as “stinging.”

If fire ants sting you, chances are you’ll know. They attack in swarms, racing up vertical surfaces (such as your leg) when their nests are disturbed. Each fire ant can sting several times. To identify fire ant stings, look for groups of swollen red spots that develop a blister on the top. Stings hurt, itch, and last up to a week. Some people have dangerous allergic reactions to stings and will need to seek immediate medical help.

Fire Ant Control

Prevention techniques include eliminating piles of lumber, brick, or other debris that could be possible nesting sites.  Landscape mulch should be at least 10-12 inches from the foundation and less than 2 inches thick.  Control often requires baits that ants take back to colony to share or direct insecticide application to the nesting sites.

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