States in the Deep South including Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are home to hundreds of types of ants. One insect list for the state of Alabama includes over 170 separate species of ants.
Most of the ants in the region are not a threat to people and property. Several dozen types of ants are problem pests, and the list of troublemakers includes fire ants. Here's what you should know about two of the most bothersome fire ants.
Imported Fire Ants Have Made America Home
Two invasive species of fire ants are particularly worrisome when they build their nests around humans. These two ants are natives of South America and are thought to have been introduced to the states from cargo ships. Pest control experts in the Southeast refer to these two ants as IFAs (imported fire ants.)
The two species are:
- The red imported fire ant, or Solenopsis invicta Buren
- The black imported fire ant, or Solenopsis richteri Forel
The black imported fire ant was introduced to the country in 1918, while the red imported fire ant was brought to the states in the 1930s. Today, the ants are present in over 350 million acres in over a dozen states, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Imported Fire Ants Nest, Forage, and Tunnel
Fire ants build nests both above and below ground. By the time you notice a nest poking out of the soil in your yard, the nest may deep below the soil.
Red imported fire ants build highly visible mounded nests that may look pale in comparison to the surrounding landscape. The ants choose nesting sites in open spaces like pastures, park fields, and backyards. The nests can grow so large, they damage agricultural machinery and lower crop harvests.
Black imported fire ants are not as numerous in the Southeast as red imported fire ants. Black fire ants are often present in urban locations, where they build cone-shaped nests similar to the nests of red imported fire ants.
Black imported fire ants also nest under foundations and sidewalks where they cause structural damage. The ants have strong chewing abilities and can short out electronics.
Both types of fire ants also:
- Forage along the soil surface
- Travel in groups between colonies
- Latch together and float in floods
- Tunnel under soil to water and resources
You can encounter a fire ant and receive a nasty sting anywhere on your property if there are mounds in the area.
Fire Ant Mounds Pose Health Risks to People and Pets
When fire ant mounds are disturbed, the ants swarm and attack anything near the mound. People and pets can be covered in hundreds of ants almost immediately. Within a few seconds, the ants begin stinging, and each worker ant can pierce the skin multiple times with its venomous stinger.
One or two random bites from a foraging imported fire ant can cause raised pustules and discomfort. A mass attack from fire ants defending their mound can cause severe health problems and even death for people the ants attack.
The following people should be closely watched in areas where there are known fire-ant nests:
- Infants and small children
- People with neurological challenges
- People with limited mobility
- People with compromised immunity
- Elderly people
Never leave vulnerable people or pets alone in areas where you discover fire ant mounds. Healthy people can also be severely injured by an attacking fire ant horde, so don't try to manage the infestation yourself.
Contact your pest control company to have the imported fire ant mounds professionally eliminated. The pest control techs will use bait stations and other methods to remove the ant pests from your property.
Contact the ant control experts at Beebe's Pest & Termite Control today, and schedule a fire-ant inspection of your property. We help you get rid of ant mounds and ants in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and we'll show you how to prevent new infestations.