Adult red imported fire ants are reddish to dark brown in color. Fire ant mounds vary in their size but are usually in proportion to the size of the colony. The mounds are typically found in open areas that receive direct sunlight. If you break open an active fire ant mount you will typically find the "brood" which is the whitish rice grain-like larvae and pupae.
These immature ants will develop into workers or winged adults. Mounds constructed in clay soils are usually symmetrical and dome-shaped. Mounds built in sandy soils are usually irregularly shaped. It may be difficult to distinguish the red imported fire ant form the tropical fire ant and the southern fire ant, which all are also found in North Carolina.
During the spring and summer months, the winged males and femailes leave the mounds and mate in the air. After mating, the females become queens and can fly as far as 10 miles from the parent colony. Although most queens descend to the ground within a much shorter distance. Only a small percent of them survive after landing. Most are killed by foraging ants. If the queen survives, she sheds her wings, burrows into the ground, and lays eggs to begin a new colony. In the late fall, many smaller colonies of fire ants will appear. They usually do not survive the winter months unless the weather is mild.
Fire ants prefer oily, greasy foods. The may also feed on many other insects. Workers may forage around their mound often in underground tunnels that radiate from the mound to find food. It is when the mound is disturbed that the ants swarm out and sting the intruder.
Because fire ants cannot be eradicated over wide areas, the goal is to manage the ants with a combination of tactics in order to eliminate the ants in areas where they pose the most immediate hazard to people, pets, and livestock. The options for control depends on the setting.
Fire ants spend a great deal of time searching for food. That activity can bring them inside buildings. You can reduce ant foraging around buildings by elimination the available food sources from these areas. This includes outdoor trash cans, dumpsters, and grease bins.
Inspection and Observation
Fire ants can be spread in new landscape material such as shrubs, sod, wheat and pine straw. For this reason it is important to check these items carefully when you purchase them or have them installed. If you find fire ants in plants, sod, pine or wheat straw, contact the supplier immediately.
If you have any questions or concerns call BugLink today 252-519-0900