Fire Ants

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< SECTION 1 OF 3 > Fire ants Fire ants are a variety of stinging ants with over 285 species worldwide. They have several common names, including ginger ants, tropical fire ants and red ants. The bodies of fire ants, like all insects’ bodies, are divided into three sections: the head, the thorax, and the abdomen, with three pairs of legs and a pair of antennae. Fire ants can be distinguished from other ants by their copper brown head and body with a darker abdomen. The worker ants are blackish to reddish, and their size varies from 2 mm to 6 mm (0.12 in. to 0.24 in.). These different sizes of the ants can all exist in the same nest. A typical fire ant colony produces large mounds in open areas, and feeds mostly on young plants, seeds, and sometimes crickets. Fire ants often attack small animals and can kill them. Unlike many other ants, which bite and then spray acid on the wound, fire ants bite only to get a grip and then sting (from the abdomen) and inject a toxic alkaloid venom called solenopsin, a compound from the class of piperidines. For humans, this is a painful sting, a sensation similar to what one feels when burned by fire—hence the name fire ant—and the after-effects of the sting can be deadly to sensitive individuals. The venom is both insecticidal and antibiotic. Researchers have proposed that ant nurse workers will spray their brood to protect them from microorganisms. Fire ants nest in the soil, often near moist areas, such as river banks, pond shores, watered lawns, and highway shoulder. Usually, the nest will not be visible, as it will be For more information see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_ants Licensed under the CC-BY-SA: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ PassageBank Passage provided under license from PassageBank.com. Use and duplication is restricted to licensees only. < SECTION 2 OF 3 > built under objects such as timber, logs, rocks, or bricks. If there is no cover for nesting, dome-shaped mounds will be constructed, but these are usually only found in open spaces, such as fields, parks, and lawns. These mounds can reach heights of 40 cm (15.7 in.), and can also be as deep as five feet. Colonies are founded by small groups of queens or single queens. Even if only one queen survives, within a month or so, the colony can expand to thousands of individuals. Some colonies may be polygynous (having multiple queens per nest). Although most fire ant species do not bother people and are not invasive due to biological factors, Solenopsis invicta, known in the United States as the red imported fire ant (or RIFA) is an invasive pest in many areas of the world, notably the United States, Australia, the Philippines, China, and Taiwan. The RIFA was accidentally introduced into the United States aboard a South American cargo ship that docked at the port of Mobile, Alabama, in the 1930s, but now infests the majority of the Southern and Southwestern United States. In the U.S., the FDA estimates that more than $5 billion is spent annually on medical treatment, damage, and control in RIFA-infested areas. Furthermore, the ants cause approximately $750 million in damage annually to agricultural assets, including veterinarian bills and livestock loss, as well as crop loss. Over 40 million people live in RIFA-infested areas in the southeastern United States. Between 30% and 60% of the people living in fire ant-infested areas are stung each year. Since September 2004, Taiwan has been seriously For more information see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_ants Licensed under the CC-BY-SA: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ PassageBank Passage provided under license from PassageBank.com. Use and duplication is restricted to licensees only. < SECTION 3 OF 3 > affected by the red fire ant. The U.S., Taiwan, and Australia all have ongoing national efforts to control or eradicate the species, but, other than Australia, none have been especially effective. In Australia, an intensive program costing $175 million has, as of February 2007, eradicated 99% of fire ants from the sole infestation occurring in southeast Queensland. For more information see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_ants Licensed under the CC-BY-SA: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ PassageBank Passage provided under license from PassageBank.com. Use and duplication is restricted to licensees only.

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