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Ants are probably the most frequently sighted insects. Different ant species are everywhere in the United States, and unless you are an expert, it can be difficult differentiating between different species, but most seem harmless. Luckily most of the ants that people encounter on a regular basis are completely harmless to humans, but not the red imported fire ant (RIFA). These harmful ant pests have established themselves in many US states, but they are native to Mato Grosso in Brazil. The exact date in which this ant species was introduced into the US is not known. Experts are also unable to ascertain how fire ants arrived in North America. Despite this lack of knowledge, experts seem certain that fire ants arrived at a seaport in Mobile, Alabama sometime during the year of 1940.

 

Shortly after its introduction into the US, fire ants proceeded to spread rapidly during the 1940s. Fire ants are currently located in thirteen southern states ranging from California to North Carolina. Some fire ant colonies have been found as far north as Tulsa, Oklahoma, but these ant colonies are normally isolated and generally not well established in these regions. Although fire ants do cause a few environmental problems, they are considered pests due to the painful bites that they inflict upon people. Worker fire ants can sting repeatedly, and they can sting any animal that encroaches upon their nesting mounds. Symptoms of a fire ant sting include intense burning sensations and itchiness. The initial bite mark transforms into a pustule that can take weeks to heal. Scratching these pustules sometimes causes secondary bacterial infections that call for further medical attention. Fire ant venom is powerful enough to kill birds, and some cases have even seen poultry and pet animals die from fire ant bites. Controlling fire ant populations is difficult, and their presence in America can never be fully eradicated.

 

Have you ever encountered a red imported fire ant mound?

 

 

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