Fire ants belong to a genus that is called “Solenopsis”. The Solenopsis genus includes more than 200 different ant species, but only around 20 of these ant species belong to the so-called fire ants.
Out of these 20 different fire ant species, there are 6 species that can be found in the US.
As a whole, fire ants are species that can be found in many parts of the world but are very common in South America, where they probably originally came from, and in the south of North America.
Where Do Fire Ants Live?
Fire ants can live in huge colonies of up to 200,000 to 300,000 workers. Their nests are easily recognizable because different from many other ant species they don’t hide. They are in wide open and sunny areas in their dome-shaped mounds that can be up to 3 feet in diameter.
A fire ant colony can have several egg-laying queens and major and minor workers that come in different sizes.
Fire ant colonies can have either one or several queens.
Colonies with only one queen are a lot more territorial towards other colonies and will protect their hunting area which leads to a maximum of 40-150 mounds per acre.
Colonies with several queens obviously tolerate other egg-laying queens as well and do not only live in much bigger ant-families of up to 500,000 workers but also tolerate an incredible number of 200-800 mounds per acre.
Where is it Most Likely to Find Red Fire Ants?
Red fire ants prefer sunny, open areas such as wide fields, parks, or lawns.
They live in mounds that are often dome-shaped and can be up to 2 feet high and 2 feet in diameter.
Where Can I Find a Red Fire Ant Queen for a New Colony?
Red fire ant queens and drones can fly up to more than 820 feet in height and usually land within a 1,2-mile radius around their home colony.
Most red fire ant colonies perform their nuptial flight in May or June but they can also be found at any other time of the year.
Red fire ants prefer warm temperatures for their nuptial flights.
Watch out on warm, but humid days in summer with a light breeze, preferably after a rainy day. These are the perfect conditions for a nuptial flight.
After the queens mate in the air, they land and will start looking for a place to start their new colony.
If you find a red fire ant queen crawling around on the ground, this might be a good time to catch her. The chances are higher that she has successfully mated if she has thrown her wings off already, but some queens just take their time and some never lose their wings.
Which Fire Ants Exist in the US?
In the US there are 6 species of fire ants. Four of them are endemic and two were imported from South America. The most dominant species is the red imported fire ant (Latin: Solenopsis invicta).
The endemic fire ants in the US are:
- Solenopsis geminata, the Tropical fire ant
- Solenopsis aurae – desert specie
- Solenopsis amblychila – desert specie
- Solenopsis xyloni, the Southern fire ant
The fire ants that were imported to the US are:
- Solenopsis invicta, the Red imported fire ant, also referred to as RIFA
- Solenopsis richteri, Black imported fire ant, also referred to as BIFA
The imported fire ants are very well established, especially in the south of North America, and are also called “IFA”, which stands for Imported Fire Ant.
Super creative, I know. But it was not me who came up with that genius name. And let’s be honest, at least it’s easy to memorize, other than the Latin names.
The RIFA can be found in most of the southern states of the US: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
In Which Countries do Fire Ants Live
The most common fire ants are the Red imported fire ants, due to their very aggressive behavior and fast growth, the Black fire ant, and the subspecies of the Solenopsis geminata species.
Solenopsis invicta (Red imported fire ant)
The red imported fire ant is native to the tropical areas of Central and South America. They can be found in Peru, Argentina, and in the South-West of Brazil.
They are very invasive and live in many other parts of the world too.
Therefore they can be also found in Mexico, and the southern part of North America as well as Australia, India, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore.
There are also sightings of the red fire ant on several tropical islands such as Anguilla, Saint Martin, Barbuda, Montserrat, Saint Kitts, and Jamaica.
Solenopsis richteri (Black imported fire ant)
The black imported fire ant is closely related to the red imported fire ant even though it was also accidentally imported to the US, they do not spread that quickly.
Most of the black imported fire ants can be found in Argentina, Chila, Paraguay, Uruguay, and some in the south of the US.
Solenopsis geminata species
The Solenopsis geminata includes several subspecies, including the tropical fire ant and the southern fire ant.
They can be found mainly in all of South America and in the south of North America but also in some parts of Africa, Australia, on tropical islands, some Asian countries, and some countries in Europe.
Lisa is one of the two founders of Animal-Knowledge. She has been very interested in animals and insects from a very young age and has owned different kinds of pets such as snails, ants, fish, turtles, mice, rats, hamsters, rabbits, a dog, … you get the idea 🙂