If you’ve never lived in the south, you might not know what a fire ant is. In the northeast, you may refer to them as red ants. In Florida, we appropriately call them fire ants—the name comes from the fact that these tiny insects pack a nasty sting that feels like a burn.
Fire ants attach themselves to your body using their jaws while they attack with their rear stinger. One fire ant can sting you multiple times, and the venom is to blame for the pain you feel as a result.
How to Identify a Fire Ant
There are two species of fire ants in Florida. The most common is the red imported fire ant. Less common is S. Germinata, a tropical, native fire ant. The red imported fire ant, or RIFA, can range in size from about 2.4 to 6.0 millimeters. The females are copper in color, with darker areas on their bodies. The males appear almost black.
If you can’t get close enough to a fire ant to identify it by its physical features, you can often spot their mounds. Whereas many other types of ants create mounds with one hole at the top that serves as an entrance and exit, fire ant mounds tend to get large quickly and have no single hole at the top.
Fire ants tunnel beneath the ground, pushing up the surface of the earth from below. A fire ant mound might just look like a pile of dirt. But even the mildest disturbance can cause thousands of ants to erupt from the mound. If you suspect that you have fire ant mounds in your yard, you can poke one with a long object (don’t get too close) and see if the ants come pouring out.
Why Are Fire Ants in Florida a Problem?
Because the soil is so sandy in many areas of Florida, the mounds that fire ants make might not reach the large sizes that they do in regions with denser soil. Therefore, it’s especially important to keep an eye out for them. One step into an anthill can result in lots of painful bites.
The bites initially hurt or sting, and they often fill up with a white substance after a day or two. They may itch after a few days too.
Fire ant bites can be dangerous, especially for children. An allergic reaction could make you swell up. The more often you’re bitten, the more likely you are to develop an allergic reaction to fire ant bites. A fire ant bite can also become infected if the pustule ruptures.
These pests can be problematic for your home and property too. They can eat the plants in your garden and damage your HVAC unit. Fire ants may be attracted to electrical currents. They often nest in utility housings and electrical equipment, damaging your wires and creating a potentially hazardous situation.
How to Treat Fire Ants Florida
Lots of people have advice on treating fire ants Florida. Some say that you should pour boiling water on the mounds or shovel ants from one mound into another so that the colonies kill each other off. Unfortunately, these DIY methods are largely ineffective.
Only about 20 percent of the colony is out of the mound at one time. Therefore, if you treat the mound with a chemical, you won’t kill all of the ants, and you’ll needlessly introduce toxins to the environment. If you have spot-treated for fire ants in the past, you know the frustration that you feel when they return.
At Hometown Pest Control, we know how to treat fire ants so that they don’t keep coming back. Keep them out of your lawn and home for good. Fill out this form to talk to us about treating the fire ants in your Florida home or business.