So you've discovered your lovely home is being overtaken by fire ants? Don't panic! Western is here to offer you some sound advice as we've been evicting these tiny invaders from our customers' homes for nearly a century.
While getting rid of fire ants can be a difficult undertaking using do-it-yourself methods, a trained pest control professional can eliminate an infestation with an effective treatment. As you likely know, fire ants earn their namesake for the rather painful bites and stings they can inflict.
Western Exterminator technicians can help you with fire ants and other ants around your home or business. Contact us today to find out how we can help you get rid of fire ants and prevent them from returning.
How can you tell if you have fire ants?
There are several signs that the ants you have might be fire ants. Red imported fire ants are very small, reddish/brown in color. They tend to stay outside, preferring to stay far away from people in the nearby homes. However, in their search for food, they can come indoors through even the tiniest of openings.
If you've spotted red ants in your home, don't automatically assume they are fire ants. While, yes, fire ants are typically red, they can also be black, especially the black male reproductives.
Red imported fire ants build mounds in the yard. These mounds look like hills of loose dirt. Unlike some other ants, there will not be a central hole near the top. Be cautious, however, since any perceived threat to the nest will cause hundreds of fire ants to swarm out of the mound and attack!
Types of fire ants
Ant species that are commonly confused with fire ants include Western harvester ants and pharaoh ants. Besides their coloring, fire ants can be identified by their 10-segmented antenna, spineless thorax and distinctive mandibles. However, it is very difficult for a non-professional to 100% identify fire ants. If in doubt, contact your local Western Exterminator office for assistance.
There are two main problem fire ant species in the U.S. that you should know: red imported fire ants (solenopsis invicta) and southern fire ants (solenopis xyloni).
Red imported fire ants
Red imported fire ants (or sometimes referred to as RIFA) have become a growing concern for homeowners as the highly aggressive, non-native species are known to build giant colonies of up to 100,000 members located deep in the soil.
Southern fire ants
Southern fire ants are active in California and extend east to the Atlantic coast. They typically build loose mounds near trees and come out in large numbers when mounds are disturbed. Southern fire ants prey on other pest species but are considered a threat due to their capacity to sting and damage properties.
Fire ants are a pest you do not want inside your home or building. Their tendency for aggression and ability to sting means they can even be dangerous to have around, especially for those with allergies to stings. What are the things which really attract fire ants? The list includes:
Cleanliness - Fire ants look for scraps and having a lot of garbage around your home is a surefire way to attract them. Clean up the kitchens and floors, making sure all food is up and out of the reach from the fire ants.
Holes in exterior walls - Fire ants are not very big. There may be a lot of them, but the tiny ants can get inside through small holes in exterior walls from broken siding or vents in brick. Even holes in the walls from utility cables can create enough space for fire ants to get through. Make sure door sweeps are installed on exterior doors and garage doors.
Food storage - Fire ants share some of the same characteristics as other ants. Ants want to find food to bring back to the rest of their colony. If you have food such as pet food stored outdoors, make sure the food is sealed up tight. Other food should be stored if you have a fire ant infestation, too, until the ant problem has been taken care of.
Moisture issues - Fire ants don’t always need a lot of soil in order to exist, but they do require a certain level of moisture to survive. Fire ants can sometimes end up in weird places like rooftops and wall voids. If you live in an area where you have a lot of fire ants, you should make sure leaks are repaired around your home and inspect the pipes within walls. If you have faucets outside, make sure those get cleaned up.
Be careful when bringing things in from the outside. Fire ants can hitch rides indoors from plants, mulch, outdoor toys and other objects which might be on a front or rear lawn.
Why are fire ants a problem?
Fire ants are a problem because they are more dangerous than other types of ants. Not only will they destroy vegetation, but they can also be dangerous to people and damage things around your home.
Destruction of vegetation
A 2006 report from Texas A&M University stated that red imported fire ants were responsible for over $6 billion worth of damage per year. This year more than 300 million acres will be infested by fire ants, destroying crops and ruining natural habitats for wildlife. Since being introduced to the U.S. in the 1930's, RIFA have had an increasingly negative impact on the agriculture industry. RIFA has been a bigger problem in the southeastern United States but southern California has had its fair share of RIFA-related problems.
Fire ant attacks
Attacks on humans by colonies of fire ants have become a growing concern in the U.S. Reports of non-responsive residents like elderly or infants in healthcare facilities being attacked by fire ants are on the rise. Fire ants will gain access often to buildings through HVAC systems. A few isolated incidents have resulted in fatalities.
Fire ant bites
The venom from a fire ant sting is strong and produces a burning feeling. When a fire ant stings you, it can be painful around the bite. You may also experience swelling and itching, and blisters filled with pus may appear and exist for several days. If you are allergic to the venom of fire ants, you may have trouble breathing and experience throat swelling. In the case of serious allergic reaction, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Fire ants sting by gripping the person they are stinging with their mandibles and then repeatedly plunging their stinger into the victim. They are venomous and the effects range from rashes and red bumps to nausea to more serious reactions.
Fire ants have been known to cause electrical malfunctions as some species are attracted to electrical machinery like air conditioners or even traffic signals. Fire ants swarming an electrical device will cause damage when one ant is shocked releasing a pheromone that attracts more and more ants.
Fire ant control methods
Fire ants should be treated early on in the summer as colonies are in a growth phase and will only continue to grow in size. Due to fire ants penchant for attacking in large numbers, we always discourage customers from attempting to treat fire ant mounds themselves but to rely on a pest control professional that is trained to remove the infestation safely.
It is best to apply treatments around the mounds as opposed to directly on fire ant mounds to avoid disturbing the ants within.
If the grass around the mounds is wet, it can limit the effectiveness of the treatment so it is best to wait until grass is dry.
Late afternoon is the best time to apply treatments for fire ants as during the day colonies are out foraging for food.
Western Exterminator fire ant and pest control specialists are experts in helping get rid of many different kinds of pests, including red ants, and we are experts in pest prevention. Contact us and find out what we can do to help get rid of pests around your home.
How to get rid of fire ants
Western Exterminator professionals can look at your property and discern if the ants that are inside your home or in your yard are fire ants. If you think there is even a chance you might have fire ants, it's better to call in the professionals than to try and take care of the problem yourself.
Western Exterminator fire ant specialists know the right equipment and protection gear to use for how to get rid of fire ants.
We use the latest methods of treatment to remove the fire ants.
Our integrated pest management approach uses the least amount of chemical treatment possible.
After treatment, your specialist will discuss ways to prevent them from returning.
Preventing fire ants
How can you avoid fire ant infestations in the first place? The best recipe for annual fire ant issues is to have a treatment around your home applied early on in the season so it becomes much easier to keep infestations under control. Eliminating a large fire ant colony in the August is much more difficult than a small ant colony in May.
There are also a number of steps you can talk to make your home less fire ant friendly, including:
Keep floors clean of crumbs by regularly vacuuming and wiping up spills
Clean up after pets as leftover pet food is often cited as a cause of ant infestations
If you keep a compost bin in your garden, make sure it is tightly sealed
Keep all your food and cooking materials tightly sealed as fire ants are seeking accessible food sources
Interested in learning more about pests? Get schooled in pest knowledge by visiting Mr. Little's Classroom. And if you have a problem with fire ants around your home, contact us and schedule an appointment with one of our specialists today.
Fire ant control near you
Fire ants are common in Western U.S. states such as Arizona, California and Nevada. They can be a real problem in front and back yards for homes and businesses in cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas and other cities in climates which are warm throughout the year. This makes fire ants a year round problem and Western Exterminator the experts who can get rid of fire ants and prevent them from returning.