"...look into all things with a searching eye” - Baha'u'llah (Prophet Founder of the Baha'i Faith)


Nov 18, 2012

Fire Ant

A name given to any of a number of species of ants in recognition of their painful, burning stings. They are a variety of stinging ants with over 285 species worldwide with several common names, including ginger ants, tropical fire ants, and red ants. Fire ants use their venom for defense, to kill prey, and as an aerosol disinfectant against bacteria and fungi in the nest. When stung, mammals develop blisters, which may become secondarily infected. Some people are dangerously allergic to the ant’s venom.

Colonies of fire ants can cause significant economic and ecological losses. Although individual ants are small, 3 to 6 mm (0.1 to 0.25 in) in length, mature colonies may have more than 200,000 workers, and they build sizable mounds. In clay soils, fire ant mounds may be more than 60 cm (24 in) high and very hard, impeding agricultural operations and creating a hazard for farming machinery. Fire ants can also undermine roadbeds and damage electrical equipment — they are attracted by electrical fields. They also destroy native fauna, especially other ants, egg-laying reptiles, and birds.

Most fire ants are indigenous to North and South America, inhabiting an area from the southern United States to central Argentina. Six species live in the United States. Of these, four are native, including the native fire ant and the southern fire ant. The other two species—the black imported fire ant and the red imported fire ant — were accidentally transplanted in 1920 and 1940, probably from Brazil or Argentina. These imported fire ants now infest more than 100 million hectares (250 million acres) in nine southeastern states and Puerto Rico. In turn, the native fire ant, indigenous from Texas to Florida and throughout the Caribbean, was accidentally exported and now infests India, Taiwan, the Malay Archipelago, parts of Africa, and many Polynesian islands.

Fire ants are members of the family Formicidae. The native fire ant is classified as Solenopsis geminata, the southern fire ant as Solenopsis xyloni, the black imported fire ant as Solenopsis richteri, and the red imported fire ant as Solenopsis invicta. (Adapted from Encarta Encyclopedia and Wikipedia Encyclopedia)