Great Bugs of Fire! 7 Signs You Have Fire Ants in Your Lawn


August 18, 2018 - Brian Reynolds

Any Southerner knows the worst of plagues aren’t comprised of frogs, flies or gnats. They’re made of fire ants. The little demons harness a nasty sting, and if you’re unfortunate enough to live in the right neighborhood, your lawn may be littered with miniature volcanoes that house critters almost as dangerous as lava. So if you happen to step out onto the porch one morning and your lawn has become a minefield full of underground demons, you’d best check to see if you’re dealing with fire ants. Want in on identifying the antennaed beasts? We’ll explain the distinguishing factors of a fire ant mound and even add a few more helpful tidbits. When you’re done, you’ll know for sure if you’re dealing with your own plague or something milder.

fire ants in a back yard

7 Signs You Have Fire Ants

One of the best ways to safely identify fire ants is by looking at their mounds. Since we don’t want to give the little devils the satisfaction of biting anyone, most of our signs center on making an analysis at a distance.

No Center Hole

Unlike most ant mounds, fire ant mounds do not have a hole through which ants enter and exit. This is perhaps the best way to decide if you have fire ants or not. Instead of the usual center hole, a fire ant’s colony is made up of underground tunnels that lead to the surface in several different areas. They create their mounds by “snowballing” material and pushing it to the top or by grasping larger obstacles individually and pulling them out. Consequently, fire ants are equipped to build colonies in basically any soil type. It’s significant to note that the mounds may not be tall; imported fire ant mounds can reach up to 18 inches, but aside from the lack of a center hole, they have the same features and are often the same size as regular ant nests.

Moist Areas and Numbers

Fire ants are native to tropical areas, such as Central America and South America. Consequently, they prefer moist areas to build their mounds. And they don’t even need soil to do it. Cases of homeowners experiencing fire ants in their house are prime examples of how these beasts rely on moisture for survival. Outside, fire ants can build mounds anywhere, but they prefer open, sunny areas. They often build beside trees and water sources. The number of mounds within your yard and the surrounding area may also provide cues. Typical fire ants will create about 40 mounds per acre if it’s a single-queen colony. If it’s a multiple-queen colony, there can be hundreds.

After Rain

Did the mounds appear shortly after a rain? This is another telltale sign you might be dealing with fire ants. During hot and dry weather, the ants stay underground to remain cool. When it rains, the water pours into the colony’s tunnel, forcing the insects to come to the surface and resume mound building. One day you will see nothing out of the ordinary and the next you’ll wake to dozens or hundreds of mounds throughout your yard. When it comes to the mounds, there is one last indicator to tell if you have fire ants.

Disturbances

Fire ants are notoriously aggressive. If their mound is disturbed, they will swarm to the surface from seemingly out of nowhere. Where other ants might scuttle away, if you disturb a fire ant mound, you’ll be faced with an army of very angry insects. They will climb vertical objects in swarms and attack whatever bothered their nest. When unearthing the ants’ home, you will also see the tunnels built into the dirt and small, white objects. These are the ants’ brood, the larvae, pupae, and eggs.

Stings

If you are unfortunate enough to get stung by fire ants, you’ll know the pain they cause. The initial “bite” will feel like an intense pinch. Next, victims will experience itching or burning around the area. The wound left behind is easy to identify. They look like pimples but are actually round, pus-filled blisters. These marks will appear about 20 minutes after the attack.

If allergic, a fire ants’ sting can lead to severe symptoms:

  • Breathing issues
  • Dizziness
  • Swelling of the tongue or throat

Seek medical help immediately if you exhibit any of these symptoms. However, the fire ants’ bite is another way to tell if you have a fiery inferno beneath your backyard or something a tad easier to handle.

Appearances

Fire ants have a similar appearance to other insects, and contrary to popular belief, not all fire ants are red. Many are black. There are five species in the US, but all of them have appearances unique to the fire ant. Firstly, they have bent antennae similar to other ants, but each antenna has 10 segments. Secondly, fire ants have petioles, two bumps located between the thorax and abdomen. They do not have spines and the stinger is visible. Although you’d have to (carefully) catch a fire ant to get a good look at its body, these features will tell you for sure if you have an infestation. However, it’s always a good idea to get the ant identified by a professional.

Location

Finally, if you live in the South, you have higher chances of experiencing a fire ant infestation. This is because the southern part of the US has the ideal climate for fire ants: gentle winters, high humidity, and warmth.

Currently, these ants have spread throughout the following states:

  • Alabama
  • Mississippi
  • Texas
  • California
  • Florida

If you live in any of these states and have mounds with the distinguishing features discussed, you most likely have fire ants.

Take Down the Fire Ant Mound

Do you have fire ants? Identifying the distinguishing characteristics of a fire ant mound is the best way to tell, but don’t despair if you’ve learned the worst. At Reynolds Pest Management, we’re equipped to handle the worst pests the world offers. We will develop a specific plan catered to your ant infestation and find a quick, and effective solution. Don’t try to tackle your fire ant problem alone! Contact us today to get 10% off your initial treatment or to request a free estimate. Let’s work together to take down the fire ant mound.

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