Red Imported Fire Ant

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RIFA orange

Red Imported Fire Ant

Scientific Name

Solenopsis invicta

Red Imported Fire Ant
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Hero Laura

These ants are named after the sting they deliver, which can feel like fire! They can also damage crops by feeding on flowers, stems, and fruit, and by protecting other pests. 

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RIFA Adult
Field Guide
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Red Imported Fire Ant
Red Imported Fire Ant
Signs

Signs refer to the visible presence of a pest. The brown mounds in this pasture are red imported fire ant nests. The ants can attack and sting the livestock.

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fire ant nests in a pasture

Red imported fire ants like to make their nests in crevices, such as this one between a curb and a lawn.

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Symptoms

Fire ants sometimes build their nests underneath buildings, which makes them more likely to come indoors.

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Red imported fire ants survive floods by forming “rafts.” They join their bodies together with their queen at the center and float to higher ground.

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RIFA raft
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Red Imported Fire Ant
Impact

Red imported fire ants can build their nests at the bases of trees and damage their roots and trunks.

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RIFA nest trunk

Red imported fire ants feed on flowers and fruits of many common crop plants such as soybean, corn, bean, cabbage, potato, and peanut, among others. Here, the ants are feeding on a cotton flower.

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RIFA cotton
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Impact II

Fire ants sometimes lend a helping hand to other pests on crops! They often protect mealy bugs, seen here, which damage plants by sucking out their sap.

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Red imported fire ants feeding on a cracked pecan. These ants are very attracted to the oily nut and other greasy foods. They damage crops by feeding on flowers and seeds, and threaten workers during harvest.

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Red Imported Fire Ant
Impact III

An adult bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus), a species heavily impacted in areas infested with red imported fire ants.  

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RIFA quail

Red imported fire ants can affect ground-nesting bird chicks as they try to peck their way out of the eggs.

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quail eggs
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Impact IV

Red imported fire ants will eat just about anything. They feed on plants, seeds, insects, ground-nesting reptiles, mammals and birds, and human food waste.

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RIFA orange

Young reptiles, such as this alligator are especially vulnerable to red imported fire ants.

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baby alligator
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Red Imported Fire Ant
Impact V

Attacking fire ant workers both bite AND sting! Unlike bees, which can sting only once, fire ants can sting many times. OUCH!

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Fire ants have great defenses against predators, which can make them dangerous to humans and other animals. If you find them, be very careful not to step on their nest, do not to disturb them, and let an adult know right away!

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RIFA raft

Red imported fire ants are attracted to sources of electricity like this high voltage unit. If they contact the electricity, they get shocked and die, releasing chemical signals (pheromones) that attract more ants. As more ants are shocked and killed, they build up in electrical equipment and make it stop working.

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red imported fire ant?

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Ants: USDA APHIS PPQ - Imported Fire Ant Station, USDA APHIS PPQ, Adult specimens: April Noble, Antweb.org, Pencil: USDA APHIS PPQ - Imported Fire Ant Station, USDA APHIS PPQ, Ants on wood: Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Multiple life stages: USDA APHIS PPQ - Imported Fire Ant Station , USDA APHIS PPQ, Winged adult: USDA APHIS PPQ - Imported Fire Ant Station , USDA APHIS PPQ, Queen and worker: B.M. Drees; Mounds: USDA APHIS PPQ - Imported Fire Ant Station , USDA APHIS PPQ, Curb: Jake Farnum, Bricks: Michael Merchant, Texas Cooperative Extension, Rafting: Bart Drees, https://fireant.tamu.edu/files/2017/12/img0041_med.jpg. Nest: Clemsen University Cooperative Extension, Bugwood.org. Cotton bloom: John Ruberson, Kansas State University, Mealy bugs: Ian Jacobs, flickr.com. Pecan: Bill Ree. Bob-white quail: Casey Sanders, . Egg: Brad Dabbert. Grub: Herbert A. 'Joe' Pase III, Texas A&M Forest Service, Alligator: Daniel Wojcik, USDA-ARS, http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos/sep99/k8575-28.htm. Bite and sting diagram: Nadeer Youssef. Stings: Daniel Wojcik, USDA-ARS, http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos/sep99/k8575-31.htm. High voltage unit: Jake Farnum,

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