Did you know there are more than 10,00 species of ants found across the globe? Here in South Florida, we are no strangers to ants. The super small pests are often found outside, and even inside, our homes throughout the year – prompting a few inevitable encounters. One of those species we are likely to have a run-in with is the fire ant, found throughout fields and lawns across the state.
Fire ants are actually an invasive species that were first introduced in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. They are identified by a blackish to reddish body– hence the species’ name – and a copper-brown head. They only measure about 1.6 mm to 5 mm in length, but can do quite a bit of damage. South Florida is a popular area for these biting pests due to the sunny and warm conditions which they favor. A fire ant bite or sting causes excessive itching. It normally results in irritation, red itchy bumps and white pustules.
Fire Ants live in large colonies, sometimes with as many as 250,000 worker ants. A worker ant’s life span is normally up to 180 days, while the colony’s queen can live up to six years. These workers build the colony’s nest underground, but usually leave visible mounds which can be more than a foot high. Mounds can additionally be found under logs, rocks or timber, or around ponds.
A mound is often your first sign of a fire ant invasion. Seeing an influx of mounds around your yard could be an indication that the ants are close to getting in, if they haven’t already. You may also find mounds in your home – check your closest for small piles of sand or soil. High volumes of rain and floods usually send these pests seeking dry shelter in your home, garages or basements. In addition, if you have a fire ant problem, you’re probably getting bit by them often. If you have noticed an influx of bites, that may be a sign of a problem.
In addition to checking your home regularly, but especially during the rainy season, there are a few ways to prevent a fire ant infestation. Be sure to regularly empty your trashcans and keep them away from your home. It is also a good idea to keep any plants that are up against your home trimmed to prevent the ants from using them as a bridge to enter your house and wreak havoc. In addition, ants are always looking for food. Do your best to keep your floors clean from crumbs and prevent access to food sources.
If you see signs of fire ants, your local pest control company can come inspect your home for an infestation and provide you with options to treat the problem.