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Ants can be useful for the environment by cleaning up decaying organic matter such as dead bugs, dead animals, and decaying trees. Ants are capable of creating fertile topsoil by burrowing to build nests. Their instinctive actions when creating underground colonies aerates the soil, making the ground less compact and allowing for water to flow freely to the roots of plants, trees, and fields of grass. Ants are ultimately good for their natural habitats. Still, when they are invading your private property, garden, or house, they can quickly become one of your worst enemies.
Though they may not intend to cause us harm, they are very capable of doing so. Learning about red imported fire ants (RIFA) can not only help you protect your property and house but may help you save the lives of your family and pets. Fire ants are one of the most deadly ants on earth and demand your attention when they are present on your property or in your home.
What Are Red Imported Fire Ants?
Red imported fire ants or RIFAs are an aggressive, invasive species of ants that have done well for themselves since their introduction to the United States. Their hostile nature has allowed them to adapt and thrive as they displace or kill off the native species of ants that they come into contact with. With an aptitude to grow in number, a colony of RIFAs with only one queen can infest an acre of land with 40 to 150 nests and have a total of around 7 million ants.
RIFA colonies with more than one queen can have up to 200 nests on an acre of land with upwards of 40 million ants. This is a scary proposition when it comes to their aggressive nature and how they work together to defend their colonies. RIFAs produce a toxic venom that is injected into victims through a fully functional stinger located in their abdomen. This venom has been known to kill small pets, young wildlife, and even humans who may have a severe allergic reaction causing anaphylactic shock.
A RIFA queen can live up to seven years, and when well-nourished, this queen can produce up to 1,500 eggs a day, which explains how so many inhabit just an acre of land. The four life cycles of RIFAs are egg, larva, pupa, and adult. In sharp contrast to the queen, RIFA workers only live an average of five weeks but provide enough support to the colony in that timeframe to keep the colony healthy as a whole.
Foods that RIFAs prefer are:
- Fruits, sugary foods, and honeydew (produced by aphids).
- Greasy foods, such as meat and grease.
- Plant seeds and excretions.
- Earthworms, spiders, ticks, insects, and arthropod eggs.
- Dead animals.
- Young or newborn vertebrates, including birds, rodents, and even calves.
As you can see, RIFAs are not picky when it comes to their diets, and this could lead them straight to your kitchen or other parts of your house where they can find water and food sources. If you feel that you are dealing with an invasion of RIFAs in your home, you can benefit from contacting a professional pest control agency. They will be able to correctly identify the threat, neutralize it, and implement plans to prevent future issues involving RIFAs and other types of ants.
Identifying Red Imported Fire Ants
Image via Flickr by psionicman
RIFAs are easy to identify as they are a dull red color with a dark or black abdomen. These ants measure from 1.6 to 5 millimeters in length and have the typical ant anatomy, including a head, thorax, abdomen, six legs, and antennae. RIFAs also have a stinger which is used during defense or to kill for food and injects a toxic alkaloid venom.
Where Do Red Imported Fire Ants Live?
Geographically speaking, RIFAs can be found in the southeastern regions of the United States but are quickly spreading towards the north and have been reported as far north as Oklahoma and Virginia. When in their natural habitat, RIFAs tend to make their nests in open grassy fields, but if necessary, they will take refuge inside of structures.
How to Kill Red Imported Fire Ants?
RIFAs are challenging to get rid of due to budding. Budding is when an ant colony is disrupted or detect that an insecticide is present, and branch off of the main nest to create a new one as a means of preserving the colony. A great way to kill RIFAs is to use what is known as a two-step method, which involves using granular bait and a chemical insecticide. When using this approach, you will spread the granular bait across the entire yard and use the liquid insecticide to treat each RIFA mound directly. This one-two punch is usually enough to take care of the RIFAs in an area.
Some home remedies work well when trying to eliminate RIFAs on your property. One is the hot water method that requires you to pour nearly boiling water onto the RIFA mound and into the nest. When enough water to saturate the deep underground tunnels is used, you will be able to kill an entire RIFA colony. Keep in mind that any grass or plants that the hot water comes in contact with will die.
Another DIY method of killing a RIFA colony is to fill a 5-gallon bucket two-thirds of the way full with water, and then proceed to dig up the entire nest. As you extract the nest, place it, and as many ants from the colony as you can, into the bucket of water. If you’re lucky, you will even be able to get the queen or queens. Once you have the whole colony in the bucket, let it sit for a couple of days and the ants will die.
Red imported fire ants are dangerous and should be approached with caution. Understanding how they function and survive can help you stay safe when trying to get rid of them and keep them off of your property and out of your house. Learning all you can about RIFAs and other disconcerting pests will help you protect your family, pets, and home.