Fire ants get their name from their painful stings and bites. They are a special type of ant that is actually a health threat and an environmental threat as well. They are small yellowish-red to black ants, all in the Genus: Solenopsis. The two most important species are the Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA), Solenopsis Invicta, and the Solenopsis xyloni. It is found in the family Formicidae. This small insect can mean big problems for people and animals.
The habitat of the fire ant has contributed to its rapid growth in the U.S. Fire ants are from South America and entered the U.S in Mobile, Alabama, probably in soil used for ship ballast. They were accidentally introduced around the 1930s and have been spreading ever since. They have spread throughout the Southeast and are distributed from Virginia to Florida, and from Georgia to California. Colonies of the RIFA may be as numerous as 30 to 100 per acre, with 80,000 to 250,000 ants per colony. The warm southern climate has helped fire ants to spread. They build on mounds of soft soil. Usually the mounds are no higher than 18 inches. Their rapid growth in the U.S. is partly due to the fact that their natural enemies found in South America are not present here. It has been estimated that the fire ant population is 4-7 times higher in the U.S. than South America.
The life cycle and life span of the fire ant is similar to other types of ants. After sperm is transferred to the female from the male, the male will soon die. A queen supplied with food by worker ants can lay up to 800 eggs per average day. Larvae develop 6 to 10 days and then pupate. The average colony contains 100,000 to 500,000 workers and up to several hundred winged forms and queens. A colony is usually started by a single queen, but some have up to five queens.
The fire ant has impacted society in some very important ways. Fire ants will kill quail, deer, lizards,...