Little Fire Ants

(Wasmannia auropunctata)

Characteristics

SIZE: One-twentieth to one-fifteenth of an inch (around 1.5 mm) in length.

COLOR: Yellow-red to light brown.

BEHAVIOR: Little fire ants are aggressive pests that can deliver a painful, long-lasting sting when disturbed. Once these ants do become established in your home, they can be very difficult to remove.

Habitats

Originally from the tropical regions of South America, little fire ants have been introduced to the southern United States and Hawaii, where they are actually pretty prevalent. They prefer warm, wet and shaded areas covered with foliage. Little fire ants most commonly build their nests under rocks, within cracks and fissures in concrete, in leaf litter and within rotting wood.

While little fire ants do not build large mounds, they can be found living in trees, around potted plants, near irrigation lines and within electrical boxes. Electrical boxes are especially attractive to little fire ants because these sites are unlikely to be disturbed as often. However, soil that little fire ants move inside electrical equipment can cause extensive damage to its components.

Tips for Little Fire Ant Control

Little fire ant control is best handled by a professional pest control service. Each little fire ant colony supports several queens. And each of these queens is capable of laying more eggs to replace any ants lost to human efforts at control. Unless fully removed, damaged little fire ant colonies can recover quickly. Also, little fire ants are omnivores, and removing their many food sources can be challenging. However, homeowners can take the following measures to help prevent little fire ants from establishing themselves on their property:

  • Remove piles of lumber, bricks and other rubbish from your property as these items could serve as a nesting site.
  • Trim back any landscaping so that at least 12 inches of clearance separate it from your home’s foundation to help remove ant access points to your home.
  • Seal as many cracks in your home's exterior as possible to help prevent ant entry points into your home
  • Have your outdoor electrical fixtures, such as any transformer boxes connected to your HVAC system, regularly inspected for corrosion and other damage related to little fire ant infestations.
  • Keep tree branches trimmed to prevent them from touching your home's roof, soffits and gutters to also help remove ant access points to your home.
  • Consider re-landscaping to avoid using plants that are prone to aphids and similar insects, as they provide a readily available food source for little fire ants.

Sources:

http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/urban/ants/little_fire_ant.htm

https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/hisc/info/invasive-species-profiles/little-fire-ant/

https://fireant.tamu.edu/files/2014/03/ENTO_020.pdf