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Though not a native species in North America, the red imported fire ant has become a common nuisance throughout the southern United States, ranging from Florida to California and as far north as Oklahoma and Virginia.

These ants were accidentally brought into the United States in the 1930s via a shipment of cargo. Initially transplanted into Alabama, they have spread and thrived throughout the southern states with the warm climate and lack of predators.

Fire ants favor warm sunny conditions, prefer dry fields and avoid shady areas such as woods. Typical mounds can grow up to 24 inches in diameter and 7 inches high. These colonies can contain several hundred thousand ants, including at least one quee


Fire ant stings are painful for most humans and fatal to some: if a victim experiences a severe reaction such as sweating, nausea or excessive itching, emergency medical services should be contacted immediately. When attacking, fire ants first use their mandibles to grip their prey, and then inject venom through a stinger. Their sting, which includes alkaloid venom, is highly irritating to humans and results in red bumps and white pustules, which can ultimately lead to scarring. The sensation of a fire ant burn has been described as “stinging” and “intense burning,” and fire ants are known to attack potential threats or prey in large numbers. A fire ant colony may contain 100,000 to 500,000 insects, thus increasing the likelihood that multiple stings will be inflicted.


Appearance – Reddish, about 1.6 to 5 millimeters (less than a quarter of an inch)

Behavior, Diet & Habit Typically nest in the ground.  Large colonies can have up to 250,000 workers. Very active and aggressive, they will sting any intruding animal repeatedly. Fire ants are omnivores, meaning they will feed on animal or vegetable sources of food. Known to eat meats along with greasy and sweet materials. The fire ant worker’s diet includes insects, earthworms, ticks, spiders, arthropod eggs, honeydew and other sweets. Young and newborn vertebrate animals eaten by fire ants include birds, rodents and calves. Generally, fire ants readily consume carrion (dead animals) regardless of whether the fire ants themselves caused the animal to die. Fire ant larvae are fed by the worker adults and eat only a liquid diet until their third larval instar is complete. Fourth instar larvae are capable of digesting solid foods.

Reproduction – Total time from egg to adult averages 30 days; workers may live up to 180 days; queens live two to six years.


One common sign of fire ant activity is the worker and swarmer ants. Other signs can be their sandy earthen mounds, which are usually more visible after recent rainfall, or the complaints of customers who are being stung by ants.

Your local pest control professional should be contacted in the event of fire ant activity. Professionals can manage lawn infestations while securing homes against indoor invasions.


The most reliable method of fire ant treatment is to have your local pest control company perform an inspection and determine how to manage the fire ants in your home.

To avoid bites or stings outside the home, be cautious and observant where you step, sit or place items such as food or drinks. If you see a fire ant mound, keep an eye on the ground to watch for ant activity.


The Red Imported Fire Ant builds mounds in almost any type of soil, but prefers open, sunny areas such as pastures, parks, lawns, meadows, and cultivated fields. Colonies can also be located in or under buildings. Mounds containing colonies can reach 18 inches in height, depending on the type of soil. Many times mounds are located in rotting logs and around stumps and trees. The mound has no opening in the center like most Ant mounds. Red Imported Fire Ants enter and exit the mound through underground tunnels. When their mounds are disturbed, the workers will come out of the ground and sting the intruder.

The Red Imported Fire Ant can have huge colonies with 300-500,000 workers foraging at distances of 100 yards. Fire ant activity ranges from the spring into fall months. During the spring and summer months, the active mounds send out winged swarmer ants whose sole job is to start new colonies.

Sometimes the Red Imported Fire Ant will nest inside buildings during the winter months under bathtubs (when on a slab), or next to hot water heaters. The Southern Fire Ant usually nests in loose soil, but at times they can be found in woodwork or masonry. Their nests may be seen as large crevices in the ground that spread out from 2-4 feet. Southern Fire Ant nests can also be found under houses, under boards or stones, or in cracks in the concrete.

Colonies frequently migrate from one site to another. The queen only needs a few workers to start a new colony. They can develop a new mound several hundred feet away from their previous location in a matter of hours.

Flooding causes colonies to leave their mounds and float until they can reach land to establish a new mound.

If you notice fire ant mounds, it’s important to contact a licensed pest professional at Westfall’s Pest Control to inspect and treat the problem. For a free inspection and bug free guarantee, contact us at (941) 761-0125.

Fire Ant Blog

The Origins of the Red Fire Ant


If you grew up in Florida, or anywhere else in the southern United States, then you’ve dealt with fire ants before. You’re having lunch in the park with your family, you’re laying on your side, when suddenly; you feel a burning sensation across your arm. To your dismay, you’re covered in red ants. You frantically jump up, brush off all the ants, but it’s too late. You’ve been bit, and now you have to deal with the hot, uncomfortable, lingering and burning feeling for the next couple of hours. We’ve all been in this situation before, and it’s no fun.

Whenever this happens, you may be wondering “why are these ants here?!” It turns out fire ants aren’t actually native to our country, It’s believed that fire ants were brought over to the United States from South America through shipping cargo. First showing up in Alabama, fire ants didn’t start tormenting local family picnics across America until the 1930’s. States that are especially effected by fire ants include Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi and other nearby southern states.

Fire ants quickly transmitted across the United States, through various ways. Some include being transported by cars, semi-trucks and trains, red ants would crawl onto these vehicle as they traveled long distances. Once these vehicles reached their destinations, the fire ants would start building their nest in these new locations. Another natural way fire ants spread, is being transported by flood waters. Fire ants have very few natural enemies in the United States, making it even easier for them to raise their population.

Fire ants multiplied exponentially, they would even completely overtake other species of ants that were native to the United States. In the 1960’s and the 1970’s attempts were made to counteract the increasing red ant population with the large scale use of Insecticides, but to no avail, the fire ants persisted. The fire ants were just too strong at reproducing, and the issue was already too big of a scale to control. Fire ants were here to stay, to the dismay of outdoor lovers everywhere.




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