Fire Ants

Les Greenberg

University of California, Riverside

Most residents of the southeastern United States are very familiar with fire ants. These reddish brown ants are well known for their aggressiveness and stings that produce a burning sensation. The term "fire ant" actually applies to a group of New World ant species in the genus Solenopsis. Many people refer to them as "red ants," although this term is also used to refer to the larger red harvester ants found in desert climates. In Spanish, the fire ant is sometimes called hormiga colorada, and in Portuguese it is formiga de fogo. In North America there are four native fire ant species, two introduced species, and two hybrid forms. The two imported species in the United States are the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, and the black imported fire ant, S. richteri. The former has spread throughout the southeastern part of the country, whereas the latter is restricted to northeastern Mississippi, northern Alabama, and northwestern Georgia. Seventeen fire ant species are currently described from South America.

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