Tiny individual ants look cute and funny but not when they are in large groups invading anything and everything coming their way. Not all ants may be dangerous but when fire ants are in question, it is a whole different story and you should be concerned! They are the worst invasive ants known. In this article titled 30 interesting fire ants facts, we are going to learn some really fascinating facts about these creatures that can truly make your life hell in many ways. So, let us begin!
Interesting Fire Ants Facts: 1-5
1. The term fire ant actually doesn’t represent a single species of ants. In fact, the term is used to refer to at least 280 different species that are classified under genus Solenopsis.
2. Fire ants live in large colonies that consist of up to 250,000 worker ants.
3. Fire ants are so called because of two reasons – first, they have a reddish appearance and second, they have a very painful sting. The pain caused by the sting is same as the pain caused by a fire burn and hence the name.
4. These ants are extremely aggressive and anything that intrudes into their colonies are met with repeated stinging.
5. As far as their nesting habits are concerned, these ants usually build their nests in ground. Many of these nests may have visible mounds above the ground with a diameter of around 61 centimeters. These mounds may rise up to 18 centimeters above ground.
Interesting Fire Ants Facts: 6-10
6. Interestingly, most of the species of fire ants are not invasive by nature. However, there is a particular species known as Solenopsis invicta which is a very invasive species by nature. This species is commonly known as RIFA or Red Imported Fire Ants.
7. Though fire ants feed primarily on seeds and young plants, the are actually omnivores. They also feed on small animals and birds.
8. While talking of the feeding habit, it is important to say that these ants are extremely aggressive and can collectively kill small animals.
9. Fire ants have a unique feature. The first time they bite not for spraying acid as other ants do. In fact, they bite to get a good grip on the skin and then they pull out a chemical compound known as Solenopsin from their stomach and inject it into their victims. This compound is actually an alkaloid venom.
10. For most humans, a fire ant sting only causes terrible pain and then it subsides. However, those people who are allergic to the alkaloid venom can actually be threatened by death. Such sensitive people, when stung by a fire ant, can experience extreme swelling at the sting site along with redness and itching. They may experience tongue thickening, short breath as well as extreme sweating. Under such circumstances, quick medical attention is extremely important to prevent a lethal outcome.
Interesting Fire Ants Facts: 11-15
11. The aggressive behavior of the fire ants allow them to eliminate local competition by pushing out other insects of the locality. Sometimes, these ants even drive other insects to extinction.
12. Most often the fire ants act as parasites to get rid of competition. One unique example will be Euglossa imperialis – a species of orchid bee that is known to be non-social by nature. The fire ants enter the beehive cells from underneath the nest and consume all the nutrients present inside the cells and thereby eliminate the competition.
13. Fire ants have displayed extreme resilience against harsh natural conditions. For example, during flooded conditions when most of the other species of ants and other insects perish, fire ants latch on to each other and float on the water. The queen ant sits on top of the raft made up of worker ants. The ant raft can float for days until they find some land where they can create their colony.
14. In this interesting raft formation, the worker ants that are at the very bottom will often come up and other worker ants from top will take their place. This allows the bottom level ants to breathe and ride out the water.
15. Not just extreme flood conditions, fire ants are also known to survive bone chilling winters. Interestingly though, majority of the ants in a colony will perish (somewhere up to 80% to 90% of a colony can perish) but the remaining ants will swiftly grow in numbers.
Interesting Fire Ants Facts: 16-20
16. Fire ants don’t hibernate during extreme winter months. That’s why most of them perish.
17. As far as their nests are concerned, they prefer moist lands. That’s the reason why highway shoulder, watered lawns, pond shores and river banks are their most preferred nesting grounds.
18. They usually build their nests under some kind of object like a pile of bricks or rocks, logs or timber. In case they don’t find any such cover, they will build their nest directly in open ground and only then they will build mounds.
19. In case of fire ants it is not necessary that a single colony will have a single queen. There are instances where they have polygynous colonies where there are multiple queen ants and each queen ant will mate with only one male ant.
20. A typical fire ant colony consists of queen ant, male ants, soldier ants and worker ants. Worker ants are the smallest of all while the queen ants are the biggest in size. Soldier ants are almost the size of worker ants but with slightly larger and powerful mandibles.
Interesting Fire Ants Facts: 21-25
21. The male fire ants are also known as the drones. The job of the drones is to mate with queen ants. Interestingly however, the drones die immediately after mating.
22. The worker ants are responsible for various activities like food foraging, nest cleaning, pupae caring, larvae caring, eggs caring etc.
23. Queen ants survive for nearly 7 years and they are capable of laying an astonishing 1600 eggs in a single day once they are fertilized by the drones. This explains why fire ants grow in population so quickly. This also explains why a colony many be made up of 250,000 worker ants because unless they are available in large quantities, they cannot take care of the eggs.
24. Worker ants usually live anywhere between 5.83 and 6.77 years.
25. Queen ants and drones that are virgin actually have wings. However, once the mating is over, the drones die out and the queen ants rip off their wings.
Interesting Fire Ants Facts: 26-30
26. Fire ants have a distinct head, a distinct thorax and a distinct abdomen. They have one antennae pair and 3 leg pairs. They head and thorax are usually copper brown in color and the abdomen is dark.
27. The worker ants grown anywhere between 2 mm and 6 mm. The worker ants can also have different colors that can range anywhere from being reddish to blackish. Ants of different colors and different sizes can all be found in a typical colony.
28. The only known natural predator of fire ants is the phorid fly. The phorid flies are hump-back flies. They don’t really eat these ants. The flies simply lay eggs on the thorax of the fire ants. When the instar larvae are formed from the egg, they push their way into the heads of the fire ants.
29. Once inside the head, the instar larvae start feeding on nervous and muscle tissues in the heads of the ants. The larvae also feed on hemolymph. This continues for about two weeks. That’s when the final kill is made by the larvae.
30. After about 14 days, the larvae of the phorid flies that are present inside the heads of the fire ants start releasing a special type of enzyme. This enzyme attacks the membrane that connects the head of an ant and dissolves it completely. Once the membrane gets dissolved, the heads of the fire ants get detached and fall off! Nice way of decapitating! Phorid flies are often used for controlling fire ant infestation naturally.