How Much Do You Know About Fire Ants?

There are several common misconceptions and myths about fire ants that confuse many people around the country. Here are several misconceptions and common misunderstandings about fire ants that you may not have known:

    • The biggest misconception about fire ants is their size. Many people believe they are large in size.  Actually, this is false. Fire ants that have been imported to our country are about the size of the small black sugar ants that invade our homes. They are red in color and have a back portion that is solid black in color. The easiest way of identifying fire ants is to look at their mound.

  • Many people believe that fire ants freely attack people. Like most aggressive animals and insects, fire ants are defensive creatures and only become aggressive when they feel threatened.  Most of the time, fire ant attacks occur when their mounds are disturbed.
  • Fire ant stings can be lethal but only a small portion of the population is hypersensitive to the ant venom that fire ants produce. About 1% of the population will experience lethal allergic reactions to fire ants. It’s not likely that a person that die from a fire ant sting. However, very young or old people may have severe reactions to the venom. Also, if a person experiences heavy and a multiple sting attack, even a healthy person can experience an extreme allergic reaction; however, it is unlikely that it will be a lethal attack.
  • Many homeowners believe that because of the cold or dry weather, fire ants are gone and will not return. This is very false. Fire ants are still around; it is just that they are unable to build mounds above ground because of the dry soil that is caused by extreme cold temperatures or heat and drought. Instead of coming up to the surface, fire ants nest deeper into the ground and only worker ants come out to forage for food.
  • Fire ants are typically carnivorous feeding off of other smaller insects and sometimes even small animals. They also feed on the sugars of certain plants.  Because it is known that fire ants are carnivorous, it is often believed that fire ants will not destroy plants.  Fire ants may not be able to kill plants, but they can severely diminish the health of plants when they are tending to food sources that feed on the roots and stems of plants.
  • A common misconception that is made about ants in general, fire ants included, is that they can do as much damage to a wood structure as termites can.  However, this is very false. Most ants, with the exception of a few different species, do not create damage to wood and fire ants definitely do not damage wood. Fire ants actually eat the larvae and adult termites but they do not eat the wood.  They may commonly be found in the home to look for a water source and may bring dirt in from the outside, but that does not mean they are attacking the premises and the wood structure of the building.
  • There are several myths about how to destroy and get rid of fire ants:
    • Gasoline will get rid of the fire ants – FALSE. Actually, using gasoline is dangerous to handle and it will kill the vegetation that it comes in contact with. Most of the time, it will not kill the entire colony.
    • There was a recent finding that club soda will wipe out the entire colony. The theory is that the carbon dioxide from the soda will choke out all the oxygen and suffocate the ants. This is very false. If anything, the soda may act like rain and drown a few of the fire ants but it will definitely not remove the colony of ants.
    • Soapy water can eliminate fire ants – Actually, it may take many repeats of pouring soapy water on the colony to totally eliminate the colony.  There is no residual time with soapy water and it will merely have the same effect as the club soda – drowning the ants. The soap may also eliminate a few more, but this process would have to be repeated many times and it’s not worth the effort to repeat multiple treatments with soapy water.
    • Rice will expand in the fire ants stomach. Rice actually is not attractive to fire ants and you would have to bait the rice for fire ants to consume it. Much like the myth about rice making birds explode, this myth is almost false and may be a waste of time when there are effective pesticides available that will bait the fire ants more quickly.

Date: Wednesday, 29. December 2010 16:34
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  1. 1

    I know one thing, that picture is of an earwig, not a fire ant, not even an ant.

  2. 2

    Hi Arnett.
    We apologize. I have checked the picture and you are correct and I have since removed the image. I apologize for the confusion. If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to let us know 🙂

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