Fire Ants

Denise Attaway  |  4/27/2011 7:20:38 PM

Adult worker fire ants are polymorphic; body length ranges from 3 mm to 6 mm. Body is red-orange brown, head is brown. Worker ants have two nodes between the thorax and abdomen and distinct compound eyes. Major worker ants have a deep groove on the vertex of the head and mandibles without teeth and are entirely black, with a short antennal scape reaching half way to the vertex. Source:

Fire ant damage to blueberry. Photo by Jerry A. Payne, USDA/ARS. Source:

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Fire ants are relatively small (.118 inches (3 mm) to .236 inches (6 mm) in length) and red to reddish brown in color.


  • Fire ant colonies are active throughout the year.
  • Cold winter temperatures slow development and drive the ants deeper into the soil, but activity resumes when the temperature rises.
  • Under optimal conditions, development from egg to adult takes less than a month.
  • A single queen may live for several years and produce over five million workers in her lifetime.


  • Although fire ants may feed on ripe fruit, they have only an insignificant impact on crop yields.
  • They may even increase the amount of marketable fruit because they are natural enemies of other pests (e.g. cutworms, leafrollers, maggots, etc.) that live or pupate in the soil.
  • Fire ants are regarded as pests primarily because they attack pickers and other agricultural workers who tend the bushes.


  • Several formulations of insecticides and growth regulators are sold for controlling fire ants.
  • Drench treatments are most effective when applied on cool, sunny mornings while the ants, including queens and immatures, are concentrated near the soil surface. Later in the day and during hot, dry weather, the ants retreat deep into the mound where the insecticide is less likely to reach them.
  • Contact your local Cooperative Extension Service for control recommendations in your region.


  • Fire Ants. IPM North Carolina State University. 02 June 1997. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  • Payne, Jerry A. USDA Agricultural Research Service.


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